Posted by: gruvenreuven | June 29, 2010

17th Tammuz coincidence

There are times in my daily Torah studies that one particular subject of study intersects with another subject of study. For example my Gemara study may intersect with what I’m studying that day in Rambam. Shulchan Aurach may intersect with Chumash,Tanya with Gemara and so on. I think of these coincidences as little treats in my study, and a sign that Torah is all interconnected.

After my pre-fast meal in preparation of the 17th of Tammuz, I finished the last page of Masechta Makkos in my Daily Daf Yomi Talmud study. As part of the Daf Yomi study program we study a blat (page) of Talmud at day. At that pace we complete the entire Talmud in 7.5 years. I am currently five and a half years in my first daf yomi cycle. (This is the 12th cycle since this method of study was first introduced in 1923 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro).

Masechta Makkos deals mainly with Judicial punishment and how they are administered. Collusive Witnesses (edim zomemim), Exile to a “city of refuge” & Court-administered lashes are all topics of Masechta Makkos.

To be honest as far as volumes of the Talmud go, this was not one of my favorite. It wasn’t that the subject matter was too difficult for me to grasp (As was the case with Masechtas Yevamous & Eruvin). I guess my lack of enthusiasm for Masechta Makkos was more related to my love of studying the previous Masechta. Masechta Sanhedrin. In that light, Masechta Makkos seemed like an anticlimax.

Relatively speaking, Masechta Makkos is a short volume. Only 24 pages. So last night as I was studying the last page I was a bit eager to move on. What I didn’t expect to find was one of the most beautiful Mishnahs that I have studied. The last Mishnah deals with what King David, R’ Yeshaya and Prophets Amos & Michah felt were the principles of Torah.

Nearing the end of the blat, I gasped at the coincidence that lay in front of me! The last subject of the Masechta was a very well know story about the reaction of our sages to the destruction of both Holy Temples. This was coincidental because I was reading this story the day before the 17th of Tammuz, the Holiday in which we being to mourning of the destruction of both Holy Temples for 3 weeks.

The Talmudic story goes as follows:

Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Akiva were walking in Jerusalem when they got to the Temple Mount. They saw a fox coming out of the area of the Holy of Holies, and they started crying while Rabbi Akiva started laughing. They asked him: Why are you laughing? He asked them: Why are you crying? They replied: The place regarding which the verse says: A stranger who will come close will be put to death has foxes living there, and we should not cry?! He said: This is exactly why I am laughing. The verse says: And I will have testify for me reliable witnesses, Uryah Ha’Kohen and Zecharya ben Yevarecheyahu. What does Uryah have to do with Zecharya? Uryah lived in the time of the First Temple, while Zecharya lived in the time of the Second Temple. Rather, the verse is saying that the prophecy of Zecharya is dependent on the prophecy of Uryah. Regarding Uryah the verse says: Therefore because of you Tzion will be plowed over. However, Zecharya said: There will once again be a time where old men and women will sit in the streets of Yerushalayim. Until Uryah’s prophecy came true, I was unsure whether or not Zecharya’s prophecy would come true. Now that Uryah’s prophecy has come true, certainly Zecharya’s prophecy will come true. They told Rabbi Akiva: Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us! (Makkos 24a/b)

In short, what Rabbi Akivah is telling his colleagues is not to mourn the destruction of the Temples as the destruction of both Temples were all prophesied (as was also the coming of the 3rd Temple!) As these negative prophecies have been fulfill, so to must we have faith that the rebuilding of the 3rd Holy Temple will be fulfilled as well.

That got me thinking…. Here I was… I had just finished my pre-fast meal. To say I was not in the best of spirits would be an understatement. Like Rabbis Gamliel, Elazar ben Azaryah & Yehoshua, I was solemn in preparing to start the saddest 3 weeks of the Jewish Calendar. But then I realized, I should be like Rabbi Akiva and take this “Coincidence” as a sign and a promise that the 3rd Temple will be speedily rebuilt speedily in our days.



  1. loving the photo of the fox. shualim are such intriguing creatures.

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