Friday, July 2, 2010



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Pinchos – Avos perek 1

20 Tamuz 5770/ /July 2, 2010

The fast of the seventeenth of Tamuz ushers in the Three Week period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples. Although the Mishan (end of Ta’anis) lists five tragic events that transpired on that day, in regards to the destruction of the Temple the most significant event was that the Roman legions who had laid siege around Jerusalem finally penetrated the walls and burst into the city on that day. Once they had entered the city it was only a matter of time before the Temple Mount would succumb and they would destroy the Temple.

The breaching of the physical the walls of Jerusalem is symbolic of a deeper more spiritual breach. In the Hoshanos prayers recited on Succos Israel declares, “Ohm ani choma – I am a wall!” That ‘wall’ represents the exclusiveness of the Jewish people. In the words of the wicked prophet Bila’am, “Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.” When that wall of exclusivity and uniqueness is breached, as a nation we become vulnerable to the spiritual and material dangers that lurk beyond those barriers.

In recent and current news, we are acutely aware of the vast danger of breaches. The oil that has been spilling into the gulf, contaminating and threatening the ecological life of the surrounding seas, is one such painful example. Another example is the recent flotilla debacle. For obvious security reason Israel sealed off the gulf from foreign ships. When a flotilla breached that security Israel sought to protect itself by inspecting the ship. The world responded with unjustified hypocritical consternation.

Most recently the Charedi public in Jerusalem and B’nei Brak bonded together en masse to protest what they felt was a breach of their standards of education. They viewed the secular court’s ruling against the Slonim girl’s school in Emmanuel as an infringement on the unyielding impenetrable barrier they erected to ensure that their educational system is unadulterated. [Needless to say the court and the media’s false portrayal of the Charedi position is also a breach!]

In a different vein, when a groom and bride stand under the canopy together, the bride customarily circles around her future husband seven times. Then the groom places a ring upon her finger, effecting the marriage. One of the ideas behind both customs is to symbolize the fact that a vital part of marriage is that each spouse form a proverbial protective wall around his/her significant other. The circuits she walks around him, and the circular ring he places on her finger, represents the fact that in their marriage they commit that their lives will circle and revolve around each other, first and foremost.

One of the greatest tragedies of our time is the atrophying of the nuclear family. The problem is further compounded by a liberal society which promotes a false sense of independence that does not promote familial bonding and marriage, in fact it denounces it.

A husband and wife are supposed to be protective walls around each other, just as parents seek to be for their children. To our dismay and chagrin, in so many families those walls and protections have been breached.

The fast of Shiva Asar B’Tamuz does nor merely commemorate a ‘historical breach’. On a symbolic level we mourn numerous breaches in many walls that comprise the House of Israel. It is a day, not only of tragic memories, but also of global attacks on our world, external attacks upon us as a people, internal attacks upon us as the bearers of the banner of Torah, and domestic attacks upon our families.

But the Three Weeks of mourning also carry hope for a better future. We are a nation of sanguinity and optimism, and that is why we have endured. So even with so much to mourn for we still anticipate the time of ultimate consolation, when our breaches will be repaired and our citadels will again stand firm and uncompromised.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum