The Period of the “Three Weeks”
The three week period between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av is dubbed by our Sages “Between the Straits,” based on the verse (Eicha 1, 3), “All of her enemies overtook her between the straits.” Our Sages tell us that these three weeks between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av are when our enemies entered the holy city of Jerusalem and massacred countless Jewish people until the Ninth of Av when they finally succeeded in destroying the Holy Temple. From that day on, the Jewish people no longer dwell securely and we must endure enemies attacking us from the outside as well as within.
Although, thank G-d, we have merited returning to the holy land relatively freely, we have nevertheless not yet merited the ultimate redemption, for our Bet Hamikdash still lies in ruins, the nations of the world are constantly on the offensive against the Jewish nation, and our tragedies multiply exponentially every day. We are indeed very spiritually distant from the final redemption and we hope and pray that Hashem pities us and redeems us once and for all, speedily in our days.
Everyone should be well aware of the woes of the exile and never to become complacent, for these days are not merely regular days when we are obligated to observe mourning customs. Rather, these days are intrinsically days of mourning when we bemoan the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and the delay of the Final Redemption. Maran zt”l would say that more than we cry for what happened almost two-thousand years ago, we are crying for what happened in our generation, i.e. the Holocaust. He would remind the audience of the million sweet children who found their deaths at the hands of the Nazis and the six million Jews who perished in the most gruesome ways. We need to cry for them as well! Indeed, our Sages taught, one who mourns over Jerusalem shall merit to see its joy and splendor.
The Levels of Mourning during this Period and the Laws of the Week during which Tisha Be’av Falls Out This Year
In the following Halachot we shall, G-d-willing, discuss the laws of the “Three Weeks.” There are various degrees of mourning observed during this period: From the Seventeenth of Tammuz until Rosh Chodesh Av, few mourning customs are observed. From the day of Rosh Chodesh Av, some more mourning customs are added. During the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out, even more mourning customs are observed.
The Week During Which Tisha Be’av Falls Out- 5781
This year (5781), Tisha Be’av will fall out on a Sunday and thus, the Sephardic custom, in accordance with the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, is that we do not observe any of the laws of mourning associated with the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out. Ashkenazi Jews, however, begin observing these laws from Rosh Chodesh Av, in any case, as we shall explain in a following Halacha.
Reciting “Tikkun Chatzot”
Since these days are a time of mourning for the Jewish nation, we customarily observe some customs pertaining to mourning. Pious and upstanding people customarily recite “Tikkun Chatzot” (Psalms and prayers related to the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash) after halachic midday during the “Three Weeks” (Halachic midday is calculated by splitting the night time hours between sunset and sunrise and the mid-point is Halachic midnight. The exact same time during the day is Halachic midday. Many Jewish calendars state either only Halachic midnight or midday since they are in essence the same time.) “Tikkun Rachel,” which includes verses that lament the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, is recited. Maran Ha’Chida in his works “Moreh Be’Etzba” and “Yosef Ometz” writes that this is an ancient custom that was observed in Israel based on the words of the holy Arizal. He writes that the custom is to recite “Tikkun Rachel” because it is based on weeping and lamentation for the destruction of holy Temple. He adds in the name of the Ari who writes that it is a worthy custom to sit and mourn after the Halachic midday every day during the “Three Weeks,” including shedding actual tears for the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. Through reciting “Tikkun Chatzot,” one will surely be moved to tears because of the sorrow of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and all of the other suffering we and our forefathers have endured during this long and arduous exile.
Indeed, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l would encourage his congregation to recite “Tikkun Chatzot” after halachic midday during this period of the “Three Weeks.” (“Tikkun Rachel” is printed in most Siddurim.) This was indeed the custom in Yeshivat Porat Yosef in Jerusalem. Some actually have the custom to recite “Tikkun Chatzot” throughout the entire year after halachic midnight, and they shall indeed be blessed.
We should point out that it is worthy to recite “Tikkun Chatzot” throughout the year following halachic midnight. When Maran zt”l would recite “Tikkun Chatzot,” he would shed copious tears about the suffering of the Jewish nation and the fact that the Mashiach had not yet arrived.
May Hashem grant our eyes the merit to see the comforting of Zion through the rebuilding of Jerusalem, Amen.