Today, the seventeenth of Tammuz, marks the beginning of a time period known traditionally as the “Bein Hameitzarim”. “Bein Hameitzarim” refers to the days between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha beAv. The Pesukim in Eicha describe how all our enemies and our troubles succeeded in harming us during this time period. We then indeed suffered horrible calamities. Tisha beAv was the day that both Batei-Mikdash were destroyed. Tisha beAv marks the start of our current exile. Beginning today and continuing through Tisha beAv we perform various acts of mourning over our Temples that were destroyed and over the Galus we live in.
Chazal tell us that after the Churban Beis-Hamikdash many people didn’t want to ever eat meat or even to have more children. They viewed the world as a lost cause. They saw Am-Yisroel as being swallowed-up into an endless dark exile. The Chochomim of that time taught us that we cannot continue to live our lives in mourning. They taught us that while we cannot forget our Home or our Homeland, we must resume some form of life. Chazal instituted some constant reminders of the Churban in a way that wouldn’t infringe on living normally.
What is different about these three weeks? Why do we change our approach?
As Jews, we represent a collective group in our relationship with Hashem. At the same time, we are also individual human beings and as such we have an individual relationship with Hashem. Collectively we form Knesses Yisroel. Throughout Shir Hashirim and Chazal Knesses Israel represents so to speak Hashem’s Bride and the mother of Am-Yisroel. Individually, our relationship is that of children to Hashem. The Baal Shem Tov went so far as to say that every individual Jew is a בן יחיד, an only child, to Hashem.
Siblings often fight among themselves. It’s only natural that people who live in such close proximity and share so much in common with each other will end up fighting. What usually keeps a family together is the mother. A mother is the beloved common caretaker of the entire family. This common love is what most often binds families together. The mother’s constant involvement with each child gives each child a sense of belonging. Children growing up in a home with a mother will feel that they have somewhere they belong and a family they belong to. In the years leading up to the Churban Klal-Yisroel started to lose their mother. Klal-Yisroel started to sever ties from one another until we lost any togetherness and Knesses Yisroel was dissolved. It wasn’t merely that we started fighting with one another. More than that, it was that so that many individual members of Am-Yisroel began to rebel against our Father, Hashem. Some of us began to stick up for Hashem and a great rift grew bigger. One thing was certain: the situation deteriorated to the point that we didn’t have a functioning mother, not did Hashem have a faithful wife. Our house became broken and whatever Jewish children were left were forced to find refuge wherever they could until this very day.
When children are forced to live on their own they are faced with two stark alternatives: either they will mature quickly to care for themselves or they will end up victims of evil. They will fall into the hands of whoever and whatever wishes to take advantage of them.
We all found shelter. Some of us perished by assimilating with the nations in which we had taken refuge. Some of us were fortunate to become stronger by fortifying ourselves with the Torah – the legacy we still have from the Home we once came from. Those of us who hang on to this legacy and utilize it are able to mature and take care of ourselves. Those of us who ignore it become prey of the outside world and disintegrate into it.
We are a big family of Hashem’s children. We must love and care for our siblings. We must encourage all to cling to our legacy with the knowledge that only this legacy will recreate our home.
Rachel Imeinu cried out to Hashem as we left into exile. She cried for Bnei-Hashem that were then lacking a home. Hashem promised her that we will be able to return home even before our home is rebuilt. We have now started to return to our Homeland. (The Chosom Sofer already stated this regarding Shivas Tziyon in his day).
Now has come the time for us to reassemble our Home. If we each do our part to stay true to our legacy of the wonderful Home we once had we will be a good part of the way there. If we manage to reconnect with all our siblings we will be all the way there. Relationships are a two way street – it is impossible to force a relationship onto others. Nonetheless we can start by showing our love and willingness to connect. Chazal tell us that a relationship is like a mirror: the way we deal with others is how they will deal with us in turn. If we deal with all our Jewish brethren with love they will reciprocate.
Year round we have to fight for our legacy to stay alive. During these three weeks we must focus on rebuilding. We must open channels of love to all of Am-Yisroel. Only we who are sticking to our legacy can understand the need to rebuild Knesses-Yisroel and through that reunite Am-Yisroel with Hashem.