The Three Weeks
The Three Weeks or Bein ha-Metzarim (Hebrew: בין המצרים, “Between the Straits”) (cf “dire straits”) is a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, בתי המקדש in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Three Weeks start on the seventeenth day of the Jewish month of Tammuz (this year Sarurday, June 30th) — the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz — and end on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av (this year, Saturday, July 21st.)— the fast of Tisha B’Av, which occurs exactly three weeks later. HOWEVER, because the fast days fall on Saturday ( שבת), the fasts are postponed to the following Sundays with Tisha B’Av Saturday night into Sunday. Both of these fasts commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the land of Israel. According to conventional chronology, the destruction of the first Temple, by Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon, (modern day Iraq) occurred in 586 BCE, and the second, by the Romans, in 70 CE.
The eyewitness to this tragic event prior, during, and after the destruction of the first בית המקדש, our Holy Temple, was the Prophet Jeremiah, ירמיהו. You can read the details in the Book of Jeremiah, part of our Scriptures. In addition, he composed the scroll of Eicha, איכה, Lamentations. On Tisha B’Av, this text is recited in the evening and morning of the fast day. It is an opportunity to review and understand “how”, איכה, did this national tragedy come about and the lessons for the future in avoiding this catastrophe.
We are blessed today to see the prophecy of the Prophet Zechariah, זכריה, a contemporary of Jeremiah, being fulfilled in our times:
“עוד יֵשְׁבוּ זְקֵנִים וּזְקֵנוֹת, בִּרְחֹבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם; וְאִישׁ מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ בְּיָדוֹ, מֵרֹב יָמִים. וּרְחֹבוֹת הָעִיר יִמָּלְאוּ, יְלָדִים וִילָדוֹת, מְשַׂחֲקִים, בִּרְחֹבֹתֶיהָ.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”
Let us hope and pray that we will witness his other prophecy in our time:
כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, צוֹם הָרְבִיעִי וְצוֹם הַחֲמִישִׁי וְצוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וְצוֹם הָעֲשִׂירִי יִהְיֶה לְבֵית-יְהוּדָה לְשָׂשׂוֹן וּלְשִׂמְחָה, וּלְמֹעֲדִים, טוֹבִים; וְהָאֱמֶת וְהַשָּׁלוֹם, אֱהָבו.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” The recognition of truth will herald peace.
Remember, historically, the Old City of Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for the past 3,000 years.
Let each one of us review the Scroll of Lamentations and do our part to bring the prophecy to reality.
By the way, I had the privilege and honor of serving the New York City Transit Police Department as Chief Chaplain, prior to its merge with the NYPD in 1995. I met Lt. Jack Maples and we became close friends. Ironically, it was his vision that led to the present day Crime Fighting tool called Compstat. Its similar in concept to analyze where improvements are needed to make matters better for humanity. This was also the main purpose of Jeremiah’s prophecy.
CompStat was started under the direction of Lt. Jack Maple when he was a Transit police officer in New York City. The system was called Charts of the Future and was simple – it tracked crime through pins stuck in maps. Charts of the Future is credited with cutting subway crime by 27 percent.
The original commanding officer of the Transit Police Crime Analysis Unit was Lieutenant Richard Vasconi. Chief of New York City Transit Police William J. Bratton was later appointed Police Commissioner by Rudolph Giuliani, and he brought Maple’s Charts of the Future with him. Not without a bit of struggle, he made the NYPD adopt it after it was rebranded as CompStat, and it was credited with bringing down crime by 60%. There was a CompStat meeting every month, and it was mandatory for police officials to attend. The year after CompStat was adopted, 1995, murders dropped to 1,181. By 2003, there were 596 murders—the lowest number since 1964.
Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz
Rockwood Park Jewish Center
National Conference of Shomrim Societies
In a few weeks beginning March 30 in the evening through April 7th,we will be celebrating the Festival of Passover.It is the most celebrated of all Jewish holidays. It commemorates the Biblical liberation of the Israelites from exile and the Exodus from Egypt.This is depicted in the Haggadah, which describes the narrative of the festival. For eight days we eat matzah, unleavened bread.
Passover is a time for returning thanks and for giving of ourselves.We pause, while,enjoying the richness and warmth of our own Seder festivities with the invitation ” All who are hungry let them come and eat”.
The Seder is of a religious nature, with a carefully prescribed ritual that makes the dinner quite unlike family dinners held on civil holidays.As we recite this Haggadah, we are mindful that “In every generation one must consider himself, as if he personally went out of Egypt.” The Exodus which led to Passover is a never-ending process in history.The pursuit of liberty must never be relaxed, until the whole of mankind reaches the Brotherhood of Man.
My personal wish to all of our members and your dear families is this:
May you have:
- Enough happiness to keep you sweet;
- Enough trials to keep you strong;
- Enough sorrow to keep you human;
- Enough hope to keep you happy:
- Enough failure to keep you humble;
- Enough success to keep you eager;
- Enough friends to give you comfort;
- Enough wealth to meet your needs;
- Enough faith in yourself to inspire you to do your best, and
- Enough determination to make each day better than yesterday.
On behalf of my dear wife Norma,our children and grandchildren, we wish all our members a Passover filled with joy and happiness.
Chaplain Alan Edwards