The Seventeenth of Tammuz, observed today Sunday (corresponding this year to July 21) begins the three-week period known as “Bein Hametzarim,” literally “Between the Straits.” It is a time of mourning when no weddings are scheduled and we refrain from listening to music.
At this time, when the loss of “G-d’s Chosen House” is more keenly felt, it is customary to increase our learning about the Holy Temple. In the Written Torah, this involves studying Chapters 40-43 in the Book of Ezekiel, and in the Oral Torah (the Talmud), Tractates Tamid and Midot. Maimonides’ “Laws of the Temple” are also studied during this period.
The Midrash relates that “The Holy One, Blessed Be He said: The study of it [the Temple] is as great as its building… Let them busy themselves studying the Temple’s form, and I will consider it as if they are actively involved in its erection.” Similarly, in a discussion of the sacrifices, the Talmud relates: “He who studies the laws of the sin-offering is considered as if he has offered one.”
Studying the laws of the Holy Temple thus allows us to actively participate in rebuilding it, even during the exile.
It is also desirable to give extra charity during the Three Weeks, as it states, “Great is charity, for it brings the Redemption nigh.”
In such a way Biblical prophecy will be realised: “Zion shall be redeemed with judgement, and those that return to her with righteousness (literally ‘charity’),” for it is through “judgement” – the study of the Torah’s laws – that Jerusalem will be redeemed, and the Jewish people will return to the Holy Land, in the merit of their charity.