We have come to live with 17th of Tammuz as an inescapable
part of our reality. We may have even gotten used to the fast
and the Three Weeks as a part of our lives. It's not just the
fast and the Churban, but all the tragedies that were brought
on by that day.
At the giving of the Torah on Shavuos -- forty days earlier --
we had achieved immortality as part of our heightened
spiritual status. No death, pogroms or even difficulties of a
lesser order. On Shiva Ossor BeTammuz, lest we forget, death,
pain and suffering returned.
We ask, "How could we make such a tragic, foolish mistake?
Moshe Rabbenu had only been delayed one day. How could we
forget that G-d had just spoken to us on Mt. Sinai? Could we
so quickly forget the Plagues in Egypt? The splitting of the
Red Sea? Where was our emunah?"
Lest we become too sanctimonious, we must remember a key
fact: "Every Jew who was or will be was at Mt. Sinai." It was
our act, our people. It was not "They" who made the Golden
Calf, it was "We." We should also remember that, "If the Beis
Hamikdosh was not built in someone's days, it is as if he had
destroyed it with his own hands." Shiva Ossor BeTammuz and
the Churban are not "Their" problem for which we must duly
suffer -- they are our problem. Being our problem, perhaps we
should try to clean up the mess we made -- and continue to
Perhaps we should first look at what happened (and apparently
is still happening) on these days. On the Seventeenth of
Tammuz, we thought Moshe Rabbenu was late in coming down from
Mt. Sinai. Maybe he was dead. We panicked. We were "alone" in
the desert and we were afraid that we would not be taken care
of -- despite all the miracles G-d had already done for us.
How did we come to have a lack of faith/belief/confidence
that G-d will take care of us so that we were panicked into
building a Golden Calf? Why would we think G-d would abandon
us? How can we avoid making the same mistake?
If we stop to think rationally from time to time, we will
understand that since G-d is infinite, there is no place He
is not -- including right here with us in the same room.
Since He is here with us, then how in the world could He
possibly forget about us?
He also loves us with an infinite love. "I love you with an
infinite world of love, therefore I draw you to me with
affection" (Yirmiyohu 31:2). "I am for my Beloved and
my Beloved is mine" (Shir HaShirim 6:3). "Beloved is
Israel for they are called the children of G-d . . .as it is
said, `You are the children of the Lord your G-d' "
(Pirkei Ovos 3:18, Devorim 14:1)
No one forced Him to create us. He doesn't need anything from
us. He is infinite. He has everything already: "If you are
righteous, what do you give Him? What does He receive from
your hand? (Iyov 35:7)
He created us as a perfect act of loving and giving --
anything less would imply that He was somehow lacking --
which would mean that He was not infinite and hence not G-
Unfortunately, there are reasons for us to imagine that G-d
is not here and not taking care of us at all times. Such a
fantasy allows us to imagine that we need to take care of
things, that it is up to us. Of course, we don't deny G-d --
but in a particular area, namely our personal interests, we
think we also need to take care of things. This can give us a
feeling of independence and importance. This way we can also
become "gods" albeit with a small "g" but "gods"
We can even manufacture some wonderful rationalizations for
our grandiose visions. Follow this one: If we are bad, either
for what we have done or just because we are not such good
people in the first place, then G-d will withdraw His
Presence from us. Who can blame Him? But if He has removed
His Presence from us, then we need to take care of ourselves.
Right? Once we start "taking care of ourselves" then, let us
be frank, anything goes: even a Golden Calf.
G-d can't forget us. He can't leave us because He is
recreating us every fraction of a moment (Sforno Devorim
10:18). He is infinite. He is everywhere at every
He can choose to "hide" from us, but He only does that when
we push Him away, when we want to act as small gods. In those
cases, He simply lets us experience the consequences of our
I personally am sick and tired of experiencing a world that
runs with G-d's Presence hidden. A hidden G-d means death,
destruction, the Temples destroyed, millions of men women and
children murdered periodically throughout history. Sickness,
cancers, fighting, pain. Lack of Torah, peace, beauty.
What do we need this for? So we can pretend to be "gods"? So
we can express our petty emotions? How many dead children is
our "freedom" worth? How much more pain must we continue to
inflict upon ourselves by denying G-d's ever-present care?
All the tragedies we suffer which we call "a test of our
emunoh" are totally unnecessary. We are the ones who
wanted independence from G-d. We are the ones who built the
Golden Calf in order to gain our independence! The 17th of
Tammuz -- our independence day!
Except, of course, one of the consequences of being
independent from G-d is that we are bound to the natural
order of this world. Which means we die. Which means we
suffer. Which means other organisms that inhabit this earthly
realm can attack and murder us.
Are we having a good time? Do you like death? Is a little bit
of illusory independence really worth it?
Or perhaps we have finally had enough and are willing to ask
G-d to rule over us with no reservations. That's all it
really takes. G-d didn't give the Torah to a nation of
perfect people. He gave it to us with all our flaws --
except we were simply willing to listen.
G-d does not require each of us to learn 23 hours a day and
to walk three feet above the ground. He just wants us to try
a little. To desire His closeness. And then . . . No More
Death, Suffering, Pain! It seems well worth it.
We would like to make one practical suggestion.
In the sefer Tomer Devorah, the 13 Middos of G-d's
Rachamim (Mercy) are explained. Tomer Devorah
was written by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero -- a student of the
author of the Shulchan Oruch. It is available in
English as The Palm Tree of Devorah, published by
A key element in his explanation is the fact that G-d takes
care of us even when we rebel against Him. That is to say,
even when we might think that G-d would pull away from us
because of our deeds, He doesn't. He continues to take care
of us with His infinite love.
So we really have no reason to "take care of things"
ourselves under any circumstances. It's simply
counterproductive and it leads to death and destruction.
Perhaps we should learn one of the middos each day.
Perhaps the extra emunoh we will acquire will have
In our generation we often claim that we are "too weak" to
take on major projects in the spiritual realm. Yet for all
our "weakness" we are remarkably competent in other areas
such as making business deals, building projects, lobbying
politicians etc. Furthermore, G-d wants our success. If we
don't have the spiritual abilities that previous generations
had -- then apparently we do not need them for the task at
hand. Which means that we, with all our weaknesses and
problems, can accomplish what G-d wants us to.
All we need to do is to try a little harder. To seek G-d's
Presence in our lives. To desire to hear Him, to be close to