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From Fasts to Feasts

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Zechariah tells us that the times of distress commemorated during the fasts will eventually turn into feasts. Ancient Jerusalem hints that the shift might have started already

 
Did you know that both Temples burned down on the exact same date on the Hebrew calendar? Did you know that the 2008 stock market crashed exactly during between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur? Those Ten days of Awe became ten very dark days on the stock market. 
 
Whenever we read that G-d spoke to a prophet on a certain day of a certain month we should pay extra attention. Dates are very important in the Bible. The Jewish months play a significant role in the way G-d governs His world. The Sages teach that certain months are fortuitous where during others one must be cautious about conducting his affairs. We learn from the Bible there are three integral elements that come together infusing light into the world at very specific times: chosen people, chosen times, chosen place – if you would like to "triangulate".  
 
"'These are the L-RD's appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times…" Leviticus 23:4. 
 
Let's break it down. Ever had your car's timing out? You push the gas pedal but the car just doesn’t seem to go? The sparks are not firing in the right sequence, and the outcome is that you are moving very slowly. Jewish festivals infuse sparks into the world at exact times, moving along, influencing and directing our lives "behind the scenes". 
 
Unlocking a deep truth
Let's get back to both temples burning down on the same date – there is a very important key we need to see here. The Prophet Zechariah speaks of the days coming when fasts will turn into feasts! Let's see what's written in Zechariah: 
"So said the Lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth [month], the fast of the fifth [month], the fast of the seventh [month], and the fast of the tenth [month] shall be for the house of Judah for joy and happiness and for happy holidays - but love truth and peace." Zechariah 8:19 
 
Where do these fasts come from? They are never mentioned in the Torah! How did they work their way into the Prophets? You see, the life of the Jewish People, as a newly born nation, only started after the giving of the Torah. Practically living the Torah, and sometimes forsaking it, brought about a history that is recorded in the writings, the prophets and the Talmud. And here is the thing that will blow your mind even more, Zechariah spoke before the second Temple destruction. He didn't know there would be a second destruction, and yet it happened on the same timeline, the same dates. But he spoke also of days coming in the future, when these sad, destructive times, times that he didn't even know would repeat themselves over the existence and history of the Jewish people, will eventually turn for good. 
 
The cycle of the fasts
As feasts have cycles, so do fasts. The main events happened like this:
In the 10th month (10 Tevet) Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem
In the 4th month (17 Tammuz) Walls were breached during second temple period. During the first temple period the walls were breached on the 9th. 
In the 5th month (9 Av) Both Temples burn down. They burn into the 10th of Av
In the 7th month (3 Tishrei) Jewish autonomy ended during the first temple period after the assassination of Gedaliah the righteous governor of Judah.
These 4 fasts cycles within a three and a half year cycle. (It took three and a half years from when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem until the Temple was destroyed.)
 
Many other calamities befell the Jewish people during these days. This is not happenstance and the ash layers that were found during the excavations at the City of David at the very place where this history played itself out confirm these times of distress. There is no better place to experience the Bible coming to life than the streets and ancient foundations of the City of David. No words can tell these stories better than the very stones themselves, the broken shards of pottery, the Babylonian spearheads, the fully intact cooking pots used by the refugees hiding away in the Herodian drainage pipe and the Roman sword that were unearthed during our excavations. Two ash layers were found. That of the Babylonian devastation and that of the Roman. Both of them revealed treasures of immense significance. More of this in our next newsletter. 
 
Making the shift
The fast of Tammuz (or the fast of the 4th month) is in a few days  – not only did Israel commit the sin of the Golden Calf on this date, the Tamid offering ceased on this day, an Idol was placed in the temple and Apustamus the wicked burned the Torah (ominously reminiscent of what happened in the times of the holocaust and sadly many times over in history). But also on this day the precious walls of Jerusalem were breached. Protection crumbled. The fast of Tammuz kicks off what is known as the three weeks of mourning or "between the straits" leading up to the most dire day of the year – Tisha b'Av (9th of Av) – the day when the footstool of the Most High, the Holy Temple, was completely devastated. 
 
There is no better way to identify with these days than to be in the City of David at this time. You see, the tide is turning. And as much as we mourn these destructive days, we anticipate their turning into feasts. Ancient Jerusalem herself is leading us, gently prompting us in seeing how this once destroyed and forsaken city is literally shaking off the dust and ashes before our very eyes. A prelude, if not the very start itself of this long awaited prophecy, turning our faces towards days of "joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons". And so the prophet Zechariah leaves us with a very important precondition: " therefore love truth and peace". A personal challenge for a demanding season. May we be the generation who merits this long-awaited shift.
 
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