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The Pinch

The Pinch

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From the straits I call G‑d; He answers me with the expanse of the Divine

Psalms 118:51

"Between the strictures"2 is the prophet Jeremiah’s description of the period between the 17th of Tammuz, the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the 9th of Av, when the Holy Temple was destroyed and the exile of Israel commenced. To date, these two days are observed as days of fasting, and the three-week "strait" between them as a period of mourning and repentance.

The narrow strait, however, is not a roadblock; on the contrary, it is a mechanism for increased productivity. Hydraulic power plants, rockets and garden hoses employ it to squeeze a greater degree of power and velocity from the element they constrain. The shofar, sounded to waken man to repentance, is also such a device, its narrow mouth-end pinching the stream of air expelled from the blower’s lungs into the piercing note that emerges from its wide, upward-sweeping end.

The same is true of the strictures of Tammuz 17 and Av 9 and the two thousand years of physical exile and spiritual darkness they mourn. Twenty centuries of suppression have wrenched the Jewish soul through the funnel of exile, revealing its deepest convictions and provoking its highest potentials. From these terrible straits we have never ceased to seek G‑d, and it is this seeking that will yield the "Divine expanse" of ultimate redemption and the perfect world of the messianic age.

"On that day," proclaims the prophet, "the great shofar will be sounded. And they will come, those lost in the land of Assyria and those forsaken in the land of Egypt,3 and bow before G‑d on the Holy mountain, Jerusalem."4 On that day, the goodness and perfection of G‑d’s creation will burst through the straits of concealment and blossom into unconstrained realization.

Footnotes
1.
Recited before the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
2.
Lamentations 1:3; see Midrash Rabbah on verse.
3.
The Hebrew Eretz Mitzrayim (Land of Egypt) literally translates as "the land of the strictures."
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