On the Hebrew calendar, Tuesday marks the 17th of Tammuz, the day of the month that begins the annual period of mourning called the Three Weeks.
The Three Weeks is a time during which Jewish people remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, which were meant to be dwelling places on Earth for God, said Rabbi Lazaroff of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center.
The duration of remembrance passes through the end of the month and culminates on Tisha B’Av — the day when the temples were actually destroyed on 423 BCE and 69 CE, according to chabad.org. This year Tisha B’Av — which falls in either July or August each year— begins on Aug. 1.
“The Hebrew calendar is based on a lunar calendar, but unlike other calendars, we must have the solar correction, because our holidays must fall within their seasons,” Lazaroff said.
Justin Katz, sophomore computer science major and on the student board at Rohr Chabad, said there were a multitude of calamities, which have happened over the centuries on Tisha B’Av. In 1290 CE, the Jews were expelled from England. In 1492 on that same day, they were expelled from Spain, and in 1914, Germany declared war on Russia.
“I’ll be fasting on the first day of the Three Weeks, and on Tisha B’Av,” said Katz. “It’s history, and the more you know about it, the more you can appreciate other cultures and world religions.
“I’ll be fasting on the first day of the Three Weeks, and on Tisha B’Av,” Katz said. “It’s history, and the more you know about it, the more you can appreciate other cultures and world religions. They say that if you don’t know your history, you’re doomed to repeat it.”
Lazaroff said in addition to fasting, there are certain activities that observant Jews will not do during the Three Week period in order to mark the time of mourning and tap into spirituality.
“We mourn our temple in Jerusalem, our exile — it as if it happened yesterday,” Lazaroff said. “We don’t do joyous things during that time — weddings, for example. If someone’s father died, you wouldn’t schedule a wedding in the same week. It’s like that. We don’t cut our hair, listen to music, play instruments. All of these things, really, are finite things done for an infinite being.”
Rabbi Lazaroff said a passage in the Midrash, or rabbinic literature, where God says to Ezekiel that he will consider the Jewish peoples’ remembrance and study of the Temple during the three weeks, was to be as though they were actually rebuilding the destroyed temples.
“There’s nothing we can do physically, ultimately, without divine intervention,” Lazaroff said. “The Messiah is supposed to gather the Jewish people, bring a Messianic Era, and rebuild the Temple. Are we rebuilding the temple by mourning it? No. Are we connecting with it? Absolutely.”
Oron Hazi, a sophomore computer science major who attends Chabad, said that the destruction of the temples was one of the first major tragedies of the Jewish people.
“The annual period of mourning helps the Jews today to remember to persist,” Hazi said. “We have the strength to continue and go on. Even though some parts of our culture go away, nothing dies, so long as you put it in your heart.”
Rabbi Lazaroff said there are several things that students, Jewish or not, can take away from the lessons of temple and the way history is remembered today.
“Baseless hatred serves no one,” Lazaroff said. “The only way that we will have a peaceful world is when there is tolerance and love for the fellow and appreciation for each other — not for who we want them to be, but for who they are.”