|How to Transform the Fast into a Feast
Published: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 03:06:54 PM
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Four days a year Jews fast and mourn, commemorating different historical events of the destruction of the Holy Temple. The 17th day of Tammuz is one of the four days, and it begins a three week period of limited mourning that climaxes with Tisha B'Av, the day of the destruction of the Temple. These four days of fasting are found in the prophet Zechariah. Consistent with Judaism's optimism, the Biblical references about the four days, including Tisha B'Av are not cited as directives to fast and mourn.
Instead, they are stated in a postive context, looking to the Messianic future, when these four fast days will become days of celebration, "The four fasts will become days of joy and happiness, holidays of redemption, and feasts for the House of Judah", (Zechariah 8:19). Thus, the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av were destined to be part of our Halachic tradition, but not as days of eternal mourning. Rather, they are only temporary days of mourning, until they become permanent days of joy in the Messianic Era. What are the signs of the approaching Messianic Era?And how can we hasten Mashiach's coming? The Talmud states that the Jews returning from exile and the turning of the land of Israel green is the key sign for the beginning of the Redemption. "There is no more clearer sign then when the Land of Israel gives its produce abundantly, then the end of the exile is near, (Sanhedrin 98B, Rashi). The Vilna Gaon told his disciples that Mashiach will come after the majority of the Jews in the Diaspora come to Israel. Thus, every Jew who makes Aliya hastens the Mashiach;s coming, thereby turning the Fast Days into Feasts.
For close to 2,000 years our land rejected all would-be conquerors and remained desolate and barren. The Sifra explains that the Torah's curse of the land during our long exile, "I will make the land desolate", (Parshas Bechukosai) is actually a blessing in disguise. We didn't have to worry when we went into exile that our enemies would settle our land. Therefore, the greening of Israel is a clear signal that G-d's decree of "desolation" for the land is over and the Redemption is near. The Land of Israel had to go into "hibernation", waiting for us, her children, to return from exile.
The prophet Yirmiyahu saw the coming Redemption of the Messianic Era and its celebration as being an even greater event than the Exodus from Egypt. As the Prophet says in Yirmiyahu 16: 14, 15 – "Days are coming, says Hashem, when it will no longer be said, 'As Hashem lives Who took out Israel from Egypt,' but rather 'As Hashem lives, Who took out Israel from all the lands where Hashem dispersed them'. And Hashem will return them to their own land, which I gave to their forefathers.".According to Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, זצ"ל, we are presently in the dawn of the Messianic Era. If Mashiach should arrive before the 17th of Tammuz and Tish'a B'Av, then we will be feasting and celebrating on those days, instead of mourning and fasting.