Written by Rabbi Benzion Milecki
This Shabbat, the 17th of Tammuz, marks the beginning of The Three Weeks period of mourning which culminates on the 9th of Av. It commemorates the conquest of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Holy Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people. Because it is Shabbat, the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz is postponed until Sunday.
The 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of The Three Weeks period of mourning which culminates on the 9th of Av. It commemorates the conquest of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Holy Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people.
This 21 day period is also referred to as bein ha- metzarim - "within the straits," based on the verse [Eichah 1:3] which states: All of her pursuers overtook her within the straits. The Sages [Eichah Rabbah 1] explained that "within the straits" refers to the days of affliction between the two straights, the seventeenth of Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the Ninth of Av, when the Temples were destroyed.
During this period, we lessen the extent of our rejoicing. Marriages are not held, we refrain from listening to music, dancing, taking pleasure trips, and from taking haircuts or shaving.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe also urged that the Three Weeks should be a time of increased giving of charity and Torah study (in keeping with the verse [Isaiah 1:27], "Zion shall be redeemed by law, and her returnees by charity"), particularly the study of those portions of Torah that deal with the laws and the deeper significance of the Holy Temple.
During this period, when writing a letter it is customary to insert the following words under the date: "May these days be transformed into days of gladness and rejoicing". This is based on the biblical verses which prophecy that upon Moshiach's coming, these will become the greatest festivals.
May it occur very soon!