Updated: Dec 8, 2022
We are now in the period of the 3 weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'av, the 9th of Av. This time is marked as a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of our temples, starting with the breach of the walls surrounding Jerusalem which led to their destruction three weeks later.
As a designated time for grief there are mourning practices which help us connect to and feel the sadness. Some of them include not listening to music, taking haircuts or making weddings. As we enter the month of Av, the grief intensifies with additional practices and finally a day of fasting and sadness on the 9th of Av.
"Between the straits" is the name given to this period of time. This term comes from the book of Lamentations "Judah went into exile because of affliction and great servitude; she settled among the nations, found no rest; all her pursuers overtook her between the straits." The verse points to the constriction felt by the Jewish people at that time, surrounded by enemies with nowhere to flee. Although these events are commemorative, we remember them as our own stories, and live with them in the present.
In our instinct to avoid pain, we try to escape or deny our difficult feelings. Being "between the straights" is a narrow place where there is nowhere to run. It brings us face to face with grief and forces us to confront the feelings of loss and sadness that come along with it. This process is integral to healing and is part of a cycle that we have been living for over 2000 years.
How do we survive the storm of grief without being pulled in by its waters and thrown about? We reconnect with our inner sanctuary and the indestructible part of it that always stays with us. We hold on to our Western Wall which has stood with us through our joy and pain. When we look at all that we have endured individually and as a people, we can find this sacred inner sanctuary that we drew strength from to survive.
"It is written: They shall make Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell within them. “Within them” means within every one of Israel. For within every Jew, the core point of the heart’s inner essence is a sanctuary for His dwelling. The site of the sanctuary remains sacred, even in times of exile and desolation. In Midrash Sh’mot Raba Chapter 2, R. Acha says: “The Shechina (Divine Presence) never departs from the Western Wall.” All the desolation is limited to the buildings. So, too, is the case with the personal sanctuary within each of Israel; the foundation is whole, clear and pure." -Hayom Yom
Photo of archaeological findings on July 17 in Jerusalem