Jews around the world fasted on Tuesday to mark the beginning of an annual three-week mourning period commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
The destruction of both Israeli temples to the Almighty is traditionally believed to have occurred on the ninth day of the month of Av, according to the Hebrew calendar. But the mourning period begins three weeks earlier, on the 17th of the month of Tammuz, as that is the day Babylonian forces first breached the walls of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Other national tragedies believed to have occurred on the 17th of Tammuz include Moses breaking the first set of Ten Commandments after finding the Israelites worshipping a golden calf, the cessation of blood sacrifices at the First Temple a year before Jerusalem's fall to Babylon due to a shortage of sheep, and the placement of an idol in the Second Temple by a hostile Roman general.
Israel's chief rabbis, Rabbi Yonah Metzger and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, noted in a joint call issued to all Israelis that the situation facing their nation today is no less severe than what their ancestors faced.
“It is a time of trouble for Israel: Israel's enemies sound off and lift their heads in arrogance and conceit, opening their mouths wide with threats... They boast of their desire to destroy the Jews,” read a portion of the letter carried by Israel National News.
The document continued: “We are in dire need of God's mercy and salvation; we have none on whom to lean except for our Father in Heaven. ...We therefore hereby call upon the Nation of God to gather in synagogues on Tuesday, the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz... Let us cry out with all our strength, and call to our God and the God of our fathers from the depths of our heart - for 'God is close to all who call upon Him in truth' (Psalms 145).”
The rabbis recognized that “God's salvation can come in the blink of an eye,” and urged the nation of Israel to be ready.