• Rachel Shifra Tal

The three weeks of ‘what if?’



Today is the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day that begins the period known as the three weeks. During these three weeks we observe varying degrees of mourning, culminating in the 9 days of intense mourning, and finally ending with the 25-hour fast of Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar.

These three weeks are a powerful opportunity to ask ourselves ‘what if?’ What if the morality of the Torah was in practice today? What would it look like if the widow, the orphan, and the poor were cared for? What if we didn’t gossip about our neighbor? What if we lived in a GD-aware world? What if?

During this time, not only do we mourn the loss of this moral justice and GD centeredness in our lives, we look forward to a world where this will be so again. Tender from another painful war in our homeland of Israel. Many are asking the question, why are Israel and the Jewish people vilified and hated so?

During this mourning time, the Holocaust started, the destruction of both of our Temples, the first set of Commandments were broken, the sin of the spies, the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion from Spain, and many other horrific tragedies occurred during this time throughout history.

These three weeks are called ‘Between the straits.’ “ All of Israel’s oppressors have succeeded during this time” as written in Eichah.

Many shy away from these three weeks and just pray for them to be over. GD’s protection is reduced during this time and it is recommended not to do any unnecessary travel (during the 9 days), put off a court case if you can, and observe some of the rituals of mourning.

I want to add a positive and important opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked, a power we can harness during this time and use for the good of the world and lead us to the ultimate Redemption. This ties directly into the world and it’s general feeling these days, how people treat Israel and the Jews. They are all tied together.

When I was in a class in Israel learning about how to practice outreach (Kiruv, which literally means to draw close) the Rabbi made a profound statement that has stayed with me to this day. He said, Jews have an almost 4,000-year-old wish to hide, to be left alone. Due to the tremendous hatred and attempted extermination of our race, we would rather live under the radar. This proves to be quite a problem when our job is to be ambassadors of GD. A light in the world, practicing and teaching the Torah. The Jewish people as ambassadors have sadly borne the brunt of the rejection of GD in the world. For where a Jew stands, there stands the reminder of GD. For a society to reject GD it creates a wildly swinging pendulum of morality, and there stands the Jew in the way.

The world is tired. Tired of leaders out for money, fame, greed and this swinging pendulum of morality where what was once considered murder, can be now considered compassion. The identity of the world is all over the map, with a great need of a moral, balanced compass to cling on to. We as Jews have a moral obligation that we took on ourselves at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago to hold up that compass and uphold in the world. We have this incredible gift of a guidebook provided by the Creator of the world.

One can look around the world today and the state of our leaders and struggles and feel helpless. We can wake up and ask, “ what has the world done for me today?” Or, we can turn that around, armed with this beautiful guidebook of proven morality, ethics and vision of a better world and instead say “ What can I do for the world today?”

For several millennia we have been hated if we keep quiet, hated if we speak up, and yet that is changing now. We have a platform. For the first time in 1,878 years we have sovereignty in our homeland. We have the Torah, we have the resilience of our collective history of survival against literally all odds against us. Before us we have a promise of Redemption. The time is now to stand up and pour the wisdom and leadership of GD into the world. Global technology has created a communication exchange that has never been possible before. One sentence (a tweet) can make headlines around the world. Humanity is starved for moral, ethical leadership. What are we waiting for? Gone are the days where we didn’t have our own army to protect our people and a homeland to go to. Flying under the radar is not an option anymore. We have this rich, beautiful heritage right at our fingertips. Let us harness this time period to put the reality of what a GD centered world would look like out there!

After all, we are,

Mamlechet Kohanim v goy kadosh’ ‘The kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ Shemot

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” Mahatma Gandhi


“Leadership is not position or a title; it’s action and example.” Cory Booker


“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others stiffen.” Billy Graham


“The leader sees things through the eyes of his followers. He puts himself in their shoes and helps them make their dreams come true. The leader does not say, “Get going!” Instead he says, “Let’s go!” and leads the way. He does not walk behind with a whip; he is out in front with a banner.” Wilfred Peterson

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