Jews abstain from almost all kinds of celebrations and personal pleasures during The Three Weeks.
For three weeks starting on July 23, 2016, Jews will observe the “bein hametzarim” or simply The Three Weeks. It’s a period of sadness or mandatory mourning which falls on the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz and ends on the ninth of the succeeding Av month. There are several reasons to mourn for the Jews during this period but primarily, the observance marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
The Temples were considered holy in Judaism because Jews believed that it served as the bridge or connection between heaven and earth, God and humans. Even after its destruction, the remaining section of the Temple Mount known as the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) is considered as the holiest place for Jews today. Other tragic events in Jewish history that occurred during this period include the breaking of the Ten Commandments tablets by Moses because of the Golden Calf idol and the eventual subjugation of the Old City of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire.
For three weeks, there’s a general mood of sadness and the intensity of mourning increases as the observance reaches its final nine days. During these period, Jews fast particularly at the beginning of the observance (17th of Tammuz) and at its end (9th of Av or Tisha b’Av). However, fasting on Tisha b’Av is tougher because it usually begins on the night before.
Jews abstain from almost all kinds of celebrations and personal pleasures during this period including: weddings, partying and listening to music, eating meat, drinking wine and related beverages, eating a lavish or new dish, haircut and shaving, having sex, buying new clothes, wearing newly laundered clothes and even excessive bathing. It is written in the scriptures that God urges its people to intensify their study of the Torah particularly on the design of the Holy Temple and how they can eventually rebuild it. Jews are also encouraged to make donations to charity.
The day of the Sabbath is a special one during The Three Weeks. It’s because Jews are exempt from mourning and can still celebrate and be joyous during Sabbath. A joyous Sabbath during the three weeks of mourning is symbolic for the religion. It symbolizes the idea that suffering and sacrifices are necessary. They are temporary and will eventually end up in something joyous or good.
This is also the primary significance of The Three Weeks observance; that after the destruction of the Holy Temples, it marks the birth of the Moshiach or Messiah who will redeem its people from their sufferings. Those who mourn during the period shall have the opportunity to witness the fulfillment of the prophecy that the Temple shall be rebuilt.