Tomorrow is the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, the date when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army breached the walls of Jerusalem in the time of the First Temple and when Titus and the Romans breached the walls in the time of the Second Temple. The 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of the Three Weeks of mourning for our lost Temples, the time 'Between the Straights' and culminates in the fast of the 9th of Av, the date of the destruction of both Temples and the razing of Jerusalem.
On the 17th of Tammuz:
- Moses smashed the first Tablets
- The daily offerings in the Temple ceased during the time of the First Temple
- The Babylonians and the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem in the time of the First and Second Temple, respectively
- The Roman governor of Judea publicly set a Torah scroll on fire
- An idol was erected in the Temple
(Many other horrible things have happened since then, most recently being that last summer's Katyusha bombardments began of the 17th of Tammuz)
Here is a brief explanation of the day from Arutz-7:
The Three Weeks of gradually-increasing mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temples and Israel's exile begin Tuesday. It begins with the fast day of the 17th day of Tammuz, the day on which Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces breached the walls of Jerusalem after many months of siege on their way to destroying the holy site. It ends on the 9th of Av - Tisha B'Av - the date on which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, roughly 2,500 and 2,000 years ago, respectively.
The 17th of Tammuz is also the date on which Moses, having descended Mount Sinai and seeing the people sinning with the Golden Calf, broke the first set of Ten Commandments. During the First Temple Era, the priests were forced on this day - a year before the Temple's destruction - to stop offering the daily sacrifice due to the shortage of sheep.
In addition, the Talmud tells us, on this date some decades earlier, the evil King Menasheh had an idol placed in the Temple's Holy Sanctuary. Later, during Second Temple times, a Roman general placed an idol in the same place and publicly burned the Torah.
In honor of the day, and in view of the difficult situation Israel faces, the Chief Rabbinate issued the following call:
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 and terrorization. They boast of their desire to destroy the Jews; "they have consulted together with one another and made a pact against G-d... saying, Let us cut off Israel" (Psalms 83), and wish to war with us even as we are geared for peace.
We are in dire need of G-d's mercy and salvation; we have none on whom to lean except for our Father in Heaven. We must redouble our Torah study and observance of the Torah's commandments, with even greater strength and greater devotion - for "they come with chariots and horses, but we come calling in the Name of G-d" (Psalms 20).
We therefore hereby call upon the Nation of G-d to gather in synagogues on Tuesday, the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, an hour and a half before the afternoon Mincha prayer, for the recitation of selichot [penitential prayers] and Psalms. Let us cry out with all our strength, and call to our G-d and the G-d of our fathers from the depths of our heart - for "G-d is close to all who call upon Him in truth" (Psalms 145).
May our cries arise before Him, and may G-d arise from His chair of strict justice and sit upon the chair of mercy. May He guide and lead us with compassion and kindness, for G-d's salvation can come in the blink of an eye. And may we see the fulfillment of this verse: "I will give peace in the Land, and you will lie down to sleep without fear... and no sword will pass through your Land." May this occur speedily in our days, Amen.
Signed and sealed:
Shlomo Moshe Amar, the Rishon LeTzion, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel
Yona Metzger, the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel