This weekend we entered a period of mourning known as the Three Weeks, which begins and ends with two important fasts that commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Until moving to Israel I dreaded this period, since the two fasts fall during the hottest time of the year. Yet, as an observant Jew, I did my duty and fasted for both days, while waiting anxiously for the Three Weeks to end so I could shake off the mourning blues and slide back into some summer fun.
But since moving to Israel, my view of the Three Weeks has changed. It has become a time of hope and longing, as opposed to frustration and dread. I remember my first Tisha B’Av – the second of the two fasts which falls on the day both Temples were destroyed – in Israel. Instead of watching the clock and counting down the hours, I marched with thousands of other Israelis around Jerusalem’s Old City walls.
We waved Israeli flags, sang songs about the reconstruction of the Temple, and later joined thousands of other worshipers to pour out our hearts to God before the Western Wall. The experience transformed me; I was filled with feelings of both hope and loss as the starlit sky above seemed to mourn with us.
Yes, the Three Weeks is a period of mourning for the Jewish people, but our mourning is not to be confused with despair. When someone loses something or someone they love, they fear they will never be reunited and are filled with despair. But when you know that the object of your love is not missing forever, that it will return to you, then your mourning is tempered with hope.
Our two-thousand year exile has come to an end. The Jewish people are coming back to Zion, and the faith of our ancestors is enjoying its greatest revival in over two millennia. But the redemption has not been completed, the Temple has not yet been rebuilt, and the period of universal peace, tranquility, and revelation has not yet arrived. And so we continue to fast during the Three Weeks, with the assurance that God’s deliverance is near.
– Ami Farkas