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July 26, 2014
Tammuz 28, 5774

Chodesh Av

Masei
 

Num. 33:1-36:13
[Table Talk]

Jer. 2:4-28; 3:4

James 4:1-12

 

The Three Weeks of Sorrow...

In Jewish tradition, Moses shattered the tablets on the 17th of Tammuz, after he came down from Sinai and found the people worshiping the Golden Calf. This tragedy was seen as prophetic, since it was on this same date that the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the invading armies of Nebuchadnezzar (see 2 Kings 25:2-7), an event which led to the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the people three weeks later, that is, on the ninth of Av.  Today, the 17th of Tammuz is commemorated as a fast day (i.e., the "Fast of Tammuz") that marks the beginning of a three week period of mourning for the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem, called the "Three Weeks of Sorrow." This three week period is also called yemei bein ha-metzarim (יְמֵי בֵּין הַמְּצָרִים), "the days in the midst of distress," a phrase taken directly from the Book of Lamentations: "Judah has gone into exile, her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distresses" (בֵּין הַמְּצָרִים).

Spiritually, the three weeks are marked by a renewed called for teshuvah (repentance), and the weekly readings from the prophets all warn the people about imminent judgment from heaven. Because this is such a somber time for the Jewish people, it is customary not to schedule weddings or other joyous events during this time of year. Indeed, among the very Orthodox, the last nine days of the three weeks are the most rigorous and solemn. Beginning on the first day of the month of Av, traditional mourning customs are practiced in anticipation of the great fast day of Tishah B'Av, when the Book of Lamentations (Megillat Eichah) is plaintively recited during the evening service.

The Three Weeks of Sorrow (culminating in Tishah B'Av) undoubtedly marks the saddest and most solemn time of Jewish year, with great emphasis placed on the need for repentance and heartfelt cries for the salvation of the Jewish people.  It is a time for us to remember Israel all the more in our prayers and ask for God's revelation of the Messiah.

Three Weeks of SorrowThree Weeks of Sorrow

Dates During the Three Weeks of Sorrow: 

The Month of Av

The month of Av is traditionally regarded as the most tragic in the Jewish calendar. On the first day of this month, Aaron (the first High Priest of Israel) died (Num. 33:38), which was regarded as a prophetic omen of the future destruction of both of the Temples on the Ninth of Av. Parashat Masei is traditionally read near the new moon of the month of Av (which begins Sunday, July 27th at sundown).

Since Rosh Chodesh Av marks the time of mourning for Zion, we humbly ask the LORD to help us prepare for the coming time of teshuvah:
 

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֵיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ חדֶשׁ טוֹב בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אָמֵן

ye·hi · ra·tzon · mil·fa·ne·kha · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu · ve·lo·hei · a·vo·tei·nu
she·te·cha·desh · a·lei·nu · cho·desh · tov,  ba'a·do·nei·nu · Ye·shu·a · ha·ma·shi·ach · a·men

"May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good month in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Amen."



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Some terms:

  • Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as "parashat - name" (e.g., parashat Noach). For more information about weekly readings, click here.
     
  • Aliyot refer to a smaller sections of the weekly parashah that are assigned to people of the congregation for public reading during the Torah Reading service. In most congregations it is customary for the person "called up" to recite a blessing for the Torah before and after the assigned section is recited by the cantor. For Shabbat services, there are seven aliyot (and a concluding portion called a maftir). The person who is called to make aliyah is referred to as an oleh (olah, if female).
     
  • Maftir refers to the last Torah aliyah of the Torah chanting service (normally a brief repetition of the 7th aliyah, though on holidays the Maftir portion usually focuses on the Holiday as described in the Torah).  The person who recites the Maftir blessing also recites the blessing over the Haftarah portion.
     
  • Haftarah refers to an additional portion from the Nevi'im (Prophets) read after the weekly Torah portion. The person who made the maftir blessing also recites the blessing for the Haftarah, and may even read the Haftarah before the congregation.
     
  • Brit Chadashah refers to New Testament readings which are added to the traditional Torah Reading cycle. Often blessings over the Brit Chadashah are recited before and after the readings.
     
  • Mei Ketuvim refers to a portion read from the Ketuvim, or writings in the Tanakh. Readings from the Ketuvim are usually reserved for Jewish holidays at the synagogue.
     
  • Perek Yomi Tehillim refers to the daily portion of psalms (mizmorim) recited so that the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) is read through in a month. For a schedule, of daily Psalm readings, click here.
     
  • Gelilah refers to the tying up and covering the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) as an honor in the synagogue.
     
  • Divrei Torah ("words of Torah") refers to a commentary, a sermon, or devotional on the Torah portion of the week.

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