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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


 

Although it’s hard to believe, we are just a little more than three months away from the start of 5783. Yes, it’s true, look at your calendar and see for yourself! 

Speaking of calendars, we are going to be printing an upgraded customized 5783 Adath Israel calendar. Expect to be contacted in the near future about opportunities for sponsorships, greetings, and in memory/honor ads. However, there’s no need to wait until someone contacts you. Ad placements will be on a first come first serve basis, so please feel free to contact me ASAP. 

Next Tuesday night (6/28) will be Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. This means that we are approaching a period on the Jewish calendar known as “The Three Weeks.”  What is that all about? 

Over the course of our 3,300+ year history, the Jewish people have experienced an inordinate amount of tragedies during the summer months, especially from the 17th of Tammuz through the 9th of Av (this year Jul. 17th – Aug. 7th). There has rarely been a century in this period that has not been marred by some terrible Jewish suffering.

How should we react to this strange phenomenon? Should we just ignore it, treat it as irrelevant and hope that in time our 3,300+ year “bad streak” will disappear? Or perhaps there are important lessons to be learned from this unusual historical curiosity?

Long ago, our Prophets and Sages taught us that nothing in this world happens by chance. Everything has a cause and a good reason, even what seems to be coincidental. Whether what occurs is good or bad, G-d is somehow involved, directing things from above.

Therefore, a three-week period of introspection was ordained during the summer to focus on the meaning of this unfortunate time of the year. Being that we all tend to avoid things that make us uncomfortable, Judaism developed a variety of laws and customs to help us focus. Additionally, these practices help cultivate a connection between us and past generations. The nature of the observances is mainly based on various expressions of mourning and loss which increase in their intensity as the weeks go on.

From the 17th of Tammuz (Sun. 7/17) through the end of the month, we customarily refrain from: weddings, parties, dancing, listening to lively music, haircuts/shaving and reciting the shehecheyanu blessing.

As of the 1st of Av (Fri. 7/29) we no longer: eat meat/poultry or drink wine (except for Shabbat), swim, shower/bathe for pleasure, vacation, garden, launder, iron, sew (including any form of needlework), buy furniture, make home improvements, wear freshly laundered or dry-cleaned “overclothes” (as opposed to “underclothes”), give gifts, have surgery or go to court.

If any of these practices pose a problem for you and you don’t want to compromise the spirit of this period, please contact me for advice on how to resolve the issue.

So far, my focus has been on creating an atmosphere by not doing certain things. However, what proactive steps can we take to make this a meaningful experience? Please refer to the list of recommended films and books that I have compiled to help people utilize this time period.