17th of Tammuz: Mourning Jerusalem

Sunday July 21, 2019, many religious Jews will participate in the Fast of the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. This fast day marks the day that Jerusalem’s walls were breached by the Romans during the Second Temple, and is the beginning of a three week mourning period leading up to the fast of Tisha B’Av, which is the day both the First and Second Temple were destroyed. During the Three Weeks, many refrain from hair cuts, listening to music, going on vacation, getting married and other celebratory acts to keep this short mourning period serious and somber.

According to the Mishnah, other Jewish calamities happened on this day. On the 17th of Tammuz, the First Temple was defiled when an idol was placed on the Temple grounds and it was also the day Moses threw down the first pair of Ten Commandments. As Moses descended Mount Sinai, he saw the Jewish people worshipping a golden calf and out of anger, he threw down the Ten Commandments ultimately destroying them. Moses then went back up Mount Sinai to receive a second set, which was then stored with the broken pieces of the first set of tablets in the Ark of the Covenant.

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, not only were the walls of Jerusalem breached on the 17th of Tammuz for the Second Temple, but also the First Temple. Although the Book of Jeremiah says it happened nearly a week before for the First Temple, the Jerusalem Talmud says that the people were troubled so it is possible the dates are wrong. The second siege over Jerusalem began in the year 70 CE around Passover, leaving the Jewish people to struggle for nearly three months before they were exiled from Jerusalem and began the First Jewish- Roman War.

Although the 17th of Tammuz is a short fast lasting from sunrise to sunset, the sadness continues for the next few weeks, which was the most difficult time for those in Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple. They watched their city their city burn and their precious Temple burn on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av (Tisha B’Av) , just three weeks later. Jewish fighters continued to fight the Romans, with fortresses in Herodian and Masada, but with their fall came the defeat of the Jewish people in Israel in 73 CE.

We should never see Jerusalem fall again.