Dear Friend,

This Shabbat is the 17th of Tammuz, a tragic day in Jewish history, and the start of a three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples. The day is usually marked with fasting, repentance and prayers.

But don’t throw out the Shabbat food! This year, the joy of Shabbat will override the sorrows of the date, and the fast is postponed until Sunday. Rather than mourning, we’ll be celebrating with songs and happiness, and I’m even baking some extra treats for Shabbat.

How fitting that in this week’s Torah portion we read about Balaam, the prophet and sorcerer who was hired to curse the Jewish nation. The plot took a twist when, instead of curses, blessings poured out of his mouth. “The L‑rd, your G‑d, transformed the curse into a blessing for you, because the L‑rd, your G‑d, loves you.”

In the future, the prophet Zechariah tells us, the fast days will be times of “rejoicing and celebration and festivals.” This Shabbat, along with chocolate-chip-oatmeal cookies, we will experience a taste of the final redemption, when G‑d will permanently transform curses into blessings and sorrow into joy.

Let’s increase in acts of goodness and kindness, and pray that it happens soon.

Rochel Chein,
responder for Ask the Rabbi @