What do the 17th of Tammuz, the ninth of Av, and the first day of Passover have in common? They always fall on the same day of the week.
How does that make any sense? The first day of Passover represents the redemption of our ancestors from Egypt that sparked their journey to Israel. The 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av are fast days that commemorate the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem and our ancestors’ he exile from Israel.
They are on opposite sides of the spectrum. One leads to freedom and Israel, the other leads to exile and away from Israel. Why is the calendar designed for them to fall on the same day of the week?
Moreover, on the first day of Passover, our ancestors left Egypt and traveled to Sinai where they would receive the Torah. On the 17th of Tammuz they worshiped the golden calf and Moses shattered the tablets. The hope of the first day of Passover was shattered on the 17th of Tammuz.
On the ninth of Av, the spies returned from Israel telling the people that there was no way to conquer the land and the people cried in despair. G-d then decreed that they would die in the desert and their children, the next generation, would enter Israel. The ninth of Av was the day when the promise of the first day of Passover was dashed for the generation that left Egypt. Why are they on the same day of the week?
They Were Confident
In contradistinction to the men, the Jewish women never believed the report of the spies. They were certain that Israel would be easily conquered. So much so, that the daughters of Zelafchad, whose father had died in the desert, approached Moses, and demanded that they inherit his portion of Israel.
Why were the women so confident that the war would be easily won? Moreover, why did the daughters of Zelafchad deem themselves entitled to a portion of the land if they would not fight in the war. Is it not fair that only those who risk their lives in battle should collect the spoils of battle?
The answer to both questions is one and the same. G-d told Abraham, “Walk across the land, its length and its breadth, for I will give it to you.” The Talmud records a dispute. Rabbi Eliezer said the purpose of walking the land was to acquire it. Walk its length and breadth and by that I will give it to you. The sages who did not agree that walking the land is an act of acquisition said that by this act, G-d made it easy for Abraham’s descendants to conquer the land.
According to both opinions the Jews had no reason to fear the war. Either because it was already theirs or because G-d had assured them an easy victory. Not merely by His promise but by empowering Abraham to ground this Divine promise into the very soil of the land. Either way, it was a done deal.
The men either disregarded or forgot this detail. The women never forgot. Hence, the women never worried about the report brought back by the spies. Of course, the nations living in Israel were great warriors. But that was no reason to fear. The land doesn’t belong to its inhabitants. The land belongs to G-d. He decides whom to give it to and He already gave it to the Jews. They might be powerful warriors, but they would not overpower G-d. this would not be a bloodbath for the Jews. It would be a cakewalk.
This is also why the daughters of Zelafchad felt entitled to a portion of the land even if they wouldn’t fight a war. This would not be a dangerous war. The fight would be proforma and the triumph miraculous. The victory would not be due to the army’s efforts. It was pre-scripted. Hence the warriors had no better claim to the land than those who remained at home. All Jews would own it equally.
The Train of History
This helps us understand why the first day of Passover falls every year on the same day of the week as the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av. If you think that our ownership of Israel is rooted in our right of conquest, you would be correct to say that we lost ownership when the Babylonians and later the Romans conquered us. We can’t have it both ways. If we conquered it from its inhabitants, they conquered it from us, and it is no longer ours.
If that were the case, it would indeed be incongruous for the first day of Passover to fall on the same day of the week as the days that mark our exile from Israel. However, if our ownership of Israel was G-d given and the war was prosecuted pro forma, no one can take it from us. G-d’s gifts don’t expire. The land did not cease being ours when those nations drove us from the land.
The light that was kindled of the first day of Passover was not extinguished on the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth day of Av. It is still aglow only it is merely concealed. And He who concealed it will soon reveal it. When we cry on the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, we are reminded that it is the very same day—it carries the very same message of promise and hope—as the first day of Passover. It is a day, like all days, of liberty and redemption. The land is ours.
The train of history never stops. It keeps riding until it returns to it point of departure. Think about it, when a train pulls out of the station, it races at top speed to the end of the line. But it never stays there for long. It eventually reverses course and returns to the station. The other points along its route were never home. Home was always the original station. The journey was temporary.
The Journey’s Purpose
However, the journey has a purpose. It is not just a pointless foray onto distant tracks. Its objective is to carry people to where they need to go. Eventually, these people will return, but with something they lacked when they first departed. It might be a new purchase, a day at work, a visit to a relative, a fine meal at a restaurant, or prayer with a minyan. Whatever it was, the journey had a purpose.
The journey of history also has a purpose. We mentioned earlier that on the 17th of Tammuz, Moses shattered the tablets. On the following 10th of Tishrei, he came down the mountain with new tablets. But the new tablets were not just a replacement, they were an improvement. The first tablets only had the written Torah. The second set of tablets came with the oral tradition and the Midrash.
These could not be written into the first tablets. For these to be granted, we needed a fresh start. The old had to be shattered to make space for the new. The same occurred with the destruction of the Temple on the ninth of Av. When the Temple was destroyed, the soul of Mashiach was born. With the destruction of the man-made temple, G-d made space for a Tempe that will descend from Heaven.
When the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av fall on the same day of the week as the first of Passover it is not just a reminder that the train will return. It is a reminder that we are on a journey toward redemption. Mashiach could not have come had we remained in Israel. The exile and Diaspora were necessary. They made us much richer and deeper and when we return, we will thank G-d for placing us on this journey. It is a journey of growth, freedom, and holiness. A journey that leads to Mashiach.
Journey of Love
More than anything it is a journey of love. When a parent showers a child with gifts, it is a demonstration of love. When a parent cleans a child’s diaper and the child cries out in pain and the parent persists, it is a demonstration of supreme love. The parent’s hear shatters to a million pieces when the child screams. The only thing that keeps the parent going, is supreme love. It propels the parent past the pain.
When G-d sent us on our exile, we cried bitter tears and so did He. But He persisted, not in anger but in love. He knew this was a necessary journey that would open the way for Mashiach. On the first day of Passover, G-d demonstrated His love by redeeming us. On the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, G-d showed his supreme love by dispatching us on our journey toward Mashaich. They fall on the same day of the week to remind us that these are not punishments. They are acts of love.