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Written by Rabbi Norbert Weinberg    This Tuesday, July 19, is the Fast of Shiva Asar b-Tammuz (the Seventeenth Day of Tammuz), which will inaugurate The Three Weeks of mourning for both our Holy Temples, in connection with the fall of Jerusalem, the first destroyed by the Babylonians (586 B.C.E.) and the second by the Romans (70 C.E.).

There are six public fast days in the year.  One is Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  Another is Taanit Esther (the Fast of Esther), connected to the Purim festival.  The other four all commemorate an aspect of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples.

Following are the four fast days:

Written by Rabbi Norbert Weinberg   
Napoleon and the Jews
Now that Shavuot and the Count of the Omer have passed, we are about to enter into the longest and warmest days of the year. Tammuz, and the succeeding two months, reflects the beautiful and serene days of summer. Families enjoy vacations and children go off to camp.

Yet, a sad note is heralded in our calendar on the seventeenth day of this month. It is the Fast of Shiva Asar B-Tammuz. On this day, the walls surrounding Jerusalem were breached and the fall of this Holy City only became a matter of time. Exactly three weeks later, on the sad day of Tisha B-Av, both Holy Temples were destroyed and many other tragedies befell us.

The story is told that Napoleon once passed a synagogue where he saw the congregants sitting on the ground and offering tearful prayers. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked his attendants.
Written by Rabbi Norbert Weinberg    hamentashen2The groggers and other instruments were deafening, the costumes were original and hilarious. The synagogue was filled with joy, laughter and lots and lots of revelers. This happy time was repeated on the morning of Purim, when the Megillah was read for the second time.

On a personal note, we try to keep up with the Mishloach Manot. However, when our entire doorstep was filled with these beautiful gifts on Sunday morning, we were simply overwhelmed. The point of this mitzvah is to promote joy and friendship among us. Susan and I can truly state that you have performed this wonderful mitzvah in its deepest sense.

In every respect, it was a Purim not to be forgotten.

Written by Rabbi Norbert Weinberg    We have just had the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of machatzit hashekel. It commemorates the time that a census was taken through the counting of half a shekel, which each man had to donate. The question can well be asked why this unit of currency had to be divided in half. Would it not have been easier and even more logical if every man simply donated a shekel? Read more...
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