Today is the 17th of Tammuz – historically a Fast Day, and day of introspection and mourning.
“The 17th day in the Jewish month of Tammuz, Jews the world over fast and lament to commemorate the many calamities that have befallen our people on this ominous day.
The purpose of such fasts in the Jewish calendar is, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov’s Book of Our Heritage, “to awaken hearts towards repentance through recalling our ancestors’ misdeeds; misdeeds which led to calamities…” “
Recently – The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on this day in 5704 (1944) and in 5730 (1970) Libya ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.
We have a really hard time imagining that our actions can have such massive consequences in spiritual realms. However, we easily believe that our actions count when it comes to social justice or ecological terms. We recycle, we are turning to green products, we write letters about injustices in the world that we are not committing, but feel obliged to help stop. We are on the forefront of efforts to save, preserve, defend and believe that our actions however small – have an affect.
When it comes to the spiritual realm, we balk. We figure that what they said 2000 years ago about people not caring for one another, or people worshiping idols as causing the destruction of Israel – well they were just trying to pull a lesson from inexplicable tragedy. Really, we have no idea why these terrible things happen, have happened, still happen.
And it is partially true – we do not know the “why” of modern tragedies. However, we do know the “why” of ancient tragedies because our prophets told us so. Today we are poor, without prophets, without vision. However, we can look back to those ancient days, reflect upon the nature of what happened to the Jewish people, the pain they suffered, and seek in our day to fix that which was broken.
The 17 of Tammuz is not a call for everyone to keep the Sabbath – though that would be great to have a day where the world rested. Today we are offered a chance to work on the issues that created the tragedies of old, and renew our effort to change ourselves and the world. Baseless hatred caused the end of the Second Temple – animosity between Jews that was so great it destroyed us.
Showing love for our fellow Jews, and for humanity today – and every day – bring the spiritual balance back to the world that we lost so many generations ago. Kindness, compassion, caring, honoring – if we can infuse our world with more of this spiritual goodness, we will reap the benefits. The spiritual acts that we perform have global impact. An act of compassion for another person will bring peace faster than all the bottles we recycle. Transcending our own selfish needs and recognizing the humanity of the other – the 17th of Tammuz is a call to action in a spiritual campaign to heal the planet.