Yossi Lipsker

The three weeks of mourning – have become five weeks

Yesterday marked the fast of the seventeenth day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. This commences the three week mourning period that recalls the destruction of Jerusalem, and our two Holy Temples. In fact this marks the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached, in 69 CE, after a long siege.The fast actually commemorates five tragic events that occurred on this date:

1. Moses broke the tablets when he saw the Jewish people worshipping the golden calf

2. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the Jews were forced to cease offering the daily sacrifices due to the lack of sheep.

 3. Apostomos burned the holy Torah.

 4. An idol was placed in the Holy Temple.

 5. The walls of Jerusalem were breached.

For us though, this year- the siege had already begun. This year these sad days arrived earlier than usual. From here on, the three weeks will be more like the five weeks. From our Klall Yisroel (Jewish community) perspective, each of our three martyred teens, were a miniature Jerusalem, and their abduction, the tragic result of a modern day infiltration, a present day breaching of our walls. Both the physical walls that allowed these monsters in, and the breaching of the emotional and psychological walls of the national psyche.

Erev Shabbat, the 14 day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, the date when the boys were abducted, has become for us a new 17th day of Tammuz, a new starting point for our summer mourning period, where we will recall this event- one that will forever symbolize the shattering of our collective innocence.

Our modern day siege comes with an extra layer of insidiousness. The rockets being launched directly at our civilian population, threatens our lives. The social media rockets, the weapons of phsycological terror- are aimed directly at our souls, and are meant to disrupt our emotional balance. Apparently there are those who have not yet come to terms with the reality of the Jew who defends himself and his people. The result of that is wave after wave of vicious, anti Israel rhetoric- for our every move.

The Babylonian siege of Jerusalem caused a shortage of sheep, resulting in an ancient cease — fire, the ceasing of the fire of the offerings in the Bait Hamikdosh, the holy temple. Our cease-fire yesterday lasted only for a few hours. We very quickly rekindled the dampened fire in our hearts, the one that when kindled bears it dual message, of abhorence of violence, killing and death, but still understands its sad necessity, in order to defend the lives of our people.

This fire, once rekindled sends out a clear message. We simply cannot allow the rockets to continue to fall without responding. Did you not forget that we are not the ones who believe in promoting Suicide?

Brand us however you like in the U.N. – but we will no longer tolerate the sacrificing of our children as sheep! On this day we too declare -there will be a shortage of Jewish sheep to sacrifice, enough is enough!

Yesterday on the 17 of Tammuz we recalled with sadness, both cease fires. The ancient one that resulted in the extinguishing of the fire on the altar, and the present- one sided cease – fire, that revealed yet again the true murderous intent of our enemies.

There is an upside to all this though. One that our enemies through history never seem to get. Their breaking down of our walls, have brought another type of demolition in its wake. The last few weeks have seen the walls of our complacency, and the barriers that separate one jew from another- come tumbling down as well.

This has led us to a depth of feeling for the tragic plight of these Jewish families, an unprecedented surge of sadness that surfaced in such a natural way in our collective consciousness, revealing a latent Ahavat Yisroel -(Love of a fellow Jew ).

When they were missing, many of us prayed authentically for the first time since we can remember, as if we were praying for the return of our own children. The news of their death was felt in our guts, as the loss of one of our own children Chas veshalom, G-d forbid.

The Shiva house was in Israel – but it may have been the first Shiva house ever, with hundreds of thousands of branches internationally.

The brokeness of those families was felt viscerally – as a modern day breaking of the tablets. The coming together of Jews all over the world, united in grief, and in solidarity with these families however, has given birth to a new hopefulness amongst us, a sense that somehow united together, even in this darkness, everything will be alright, this unity- was itself a giving birth, a receiving of a new set of tablets.

Just as 17 Tammuz recalls the burning of the Torah by the Roman general Apostumus — we too recalled on the fast yesterday- the coldblooded murder of these three Yong innocent torah Scholars, each a holy miniature Torah, at the hands of these savages.

Still, our reflexive coming together as one – once again sent an unexpected and powerful response. We will write new Torahs, and study from them in their memory. The lofty souls of Naftali, Gilad, and Shaar, will dance joyously to the music of these Torahs, souls and letters, and the sound of study, all swirling together magically, sung in the bittersweet melody of tragedy mixed with hope that our people have come to know so well.

Though the broken tablets of 17 Tammuz of old- is felt keenly in the broken heartedness of today, and we mourned and fasted yesterday for both — this reminder of the sinister hatred that shadows the Jew throughout history, has the exact opposite effect.

The ones who would work so hard to silence us, never fail to also remind us – that we have something important to say to the world.

Am Yisroel Chai — we will not be silenced.

Rabbi Yossi

About the Author
Rabbi Yossi Lipsker is the co-founder and executive Director of Chabad of the North Shore and spiritual leader of the Chabad Community Shul. He can be reached at