Rabbi Shlomo Rosenfeld
The 3 weeks is a time of mourning for our losses as a nation. We try to feel the pain of the broken לוחות, of the generation who was fated to die in the desert, and of the horrors of the destruction of the בית המקדש. The name בין המצרים is given, which literally means between the narrow passages, based off the Pasuk in איכה (1:3) כל רודפיה השגוה בין המצרים.
But his year the 3 weeks start on shabbos. Yes we push off the actual fast, but how do we reconcile the concept of shabbos with the concept of mourning and fasting? I think I have a great recipe to mix the two.
There is a chassidish vort on this Pasuk. That רודפיה can be read as רודף י-ה anyone who chases after Hashem will reach Him during this time of בין המצרים, and the word השיגוה as also השיג ו-ה. Meaning that this time when we are able to chase after to reach and experience the full 4 letter name of Hashem.
This is a very nice vort, but something about it always struck me as the opposite of these times. The tragedies that we have been through during these times come right out of the תוכחה, which describe Hashem punishing us terribly. These are the times where consequence for עבודה זרה and שנאת חנם affect us. It just doesn’t seem like a time where we have the gift of reaching Hashem… how do we reconcile these two ideas?
I heard a class last year that discusses the breaking of the לוחות that I think bridges these two ideas.
The Jews see that Moshe is delayed from coming down the mountain, and they gather their gold and proceed to make a golden calf. They say אלה אלוהיך ישראל. But these people had just witnessed מתן תורה directly from Hashem 40 days earlier, we can’t be expected to believe that they were ready to believe that a molten calf they had just cooked in a pot was their god?? That’s completely ridiculous.
Let’s take a closer look at Moshe’s role in מתן תורה to understand the anxiety when they saw he wasn’t coming down the mountain. The people had begun hearing the עשרת הדברות directly from Hashem, which turned out to be a terrifying experience, so much so that they tell Moshe to make it stop. ויאמרו אל משה דבר אתה עמנו ונשמעה ואל ידבר עמנו אלקים פן נמות. They couldn’t handle it anymore! After 2 דברות they say, we need to hear from you Moshe and not directly form Hashem, or else we will die! Now we can understand that when the Jews see that Moshe isn’t coming down the mountain, they are terrified again, because they don’t have an intermediary between them and Hashem anymore. All they can remember is the terrifying experience of hearing Hashem’s Voice and being on the brink of death.
So, they wanted the calf to be a replacement for Moshe, but they weren’t just looking for any replacement for Moshe, because then they could have just asked Aharon or Chur to step into the leadership role. No, they needed someone who could be a mask for Hashem, so they wouldn’t need to experience the full connection, which is why this עגל was considered עבודה זרה. And it is called the עגל מסכה, Rashi says it is called this from the same root as מתכת since we understand it to be a metal/molten calf but the word מסכה really means to cover.
When Moshe comes down the mountain and sees this, he understands the psychology behind the cow. He knows the people feared a direct relationship with their Creator. And he looks at the לוחות in his arms, which were כתובים באצבע אלוקים, and represented an absolute and direct connection to Hashem. An infinite and heavenly gift on this earth. He knows that there is no way the people can handle these. So, he hurls them to the floor, smashing them into tiny broken fragments. He then proceeds to do the same to the עגל, ויטחן עד אשר דק. He needed to make sure there were no remnants left.
Moshe’s message to us on שבעה עשר בטמוז was to break the masks that we make for Hashem and to appreciate that we are capable of having a direct relationship with Him. He loves us infinitely more than we can understand and wants a personal relationship with us. So yes, it is a time of mourning and sadness. But at the exact same time, כל רודף י-ה, השיג ו-ה. This is the opportune time to look for and chase after that direct connection that we have with the Creator of the universe and to cultivate that relationship.
In fact, if you look the פסוקים right after מתן תורה, the פסוק says that the people saw the sounds, flames, the shofars voice, and the smoking mountain and they trembled and stood from afar, ויעמדו מרחק. Then they tell Moshe the פסוק we quoted above that they are scared of death if they keep hearing Hashem’s voice, and then Moshe tells them it’s ok, don’t be afraid. Hashem only showed Himself to you to lift you up in the world from the nations (i.e. make a special and direct relationship with you) and to make you afraid of sinning. The next פסוק is fascinating, ויעמד העם מרחק ומשה נגש אל הערפל אשר שם האלקים. The Torah goes out of its way to tell us that the people were in the exact same position as they had been during מתן תורה. They were still מרחק and were still capable of that relationship with Hashem and from hearing directly from His Voice, and it was only at their behest that Moshe went up to the mountain as an intermediary.
It is interesting that there is a פסוק in the תוכחה it says ובאו עליך כל הקללות האלה ורדפוך והשיגוך, and there is a פסוק in איכה it says רודף י-ה השיג ו-ה. We know that time in the Hebrew calendar holds specific powers and energies that we can tap in to. For example, פסח is a time of freedom (all the holidays celebrated throughout the world at that time have to with freedom), Chanukah is a time of light shining in the world (we light the menorah, the day starts getting longer on the 25th of כסלו, the Christians string lights on their house and on their tree, the Muslims, Hindi, and nearly every other religion have a holiday of lights at that time), and I think these two פסוקים in totally different parts of תנ”ך tell us that these 3 weeks are a time of running and catching. If we choose to run after Hashem we have the capability to catch Him, but if not then קללות will run after us and catch us.Attachments area