There’s a common denominator among the five specific events that happened on this date.
By Pesach Benson, World Israel News
The 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz is a sad day of fasting because of five specific events that happened on this date.
1. Moses broke the original tablets given to him by God after seeing the Jewish people worshipping the Golden Calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The nation wasn’t worthy of having tablets carved by the finger of God.
2. King Menashe placed an idol in the Temple. Although Scripture describes the tribes of Israel being enticed by idolatry for centuries, nobody had ever dared to place an idol in the Temple itself.
3. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the daily sacrificial service was interrupted. From the time of the very first daily communal sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the sacrificial order had never been disrupted.
4. It was on the 17th of Tammuz that a Torah scroll was burned for the first time. It’s unclear if the man — identified as Apostomos — was Greek or Roman. Regardless, it marked the end of a certain awe that the nations of the world had for the Torah and its scholars.
5. On this date, both the Babylonians and Romans besieging Jerusalem made the first breaches in the city’s walls. Although the First and Second Temples would be destroyed three weeks later, the enemies succeeded in taking the fight into Jerusalem.
The Jewish people lost a certain closeness with God, sullied the Temple and set in motion its destruction, and lost its exalted stature among the nations of the world.
On this date, Jews who are healthy enough to do so fast during the daylight hours, and extra penitential prayers are part of the prayer service.
There is a direct line between the events of the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, which is why the three weeks are known in Hebrew as “Bein HaMetzarim” (literally, narrow or dire straits).
Reflecting on this difficult time, rejoicing is curtailed. Starting from the 17th of Tammuz, Jews refrain from listening to music, holding weddings, wearing new clothes or cutting hair. Later, as the 9th of Av gets closer, other restrictions, such as abstaining from meat and wine or bathing for pleasure will begin.
However, on a more optimistic note, Jewish tradition also teaches that “Whoever mourns for Jerusalem will merit seeing its joy.”