1. The prophets declare that the fast days “will be transformed into days of rejoicing and happiness, [becoming] festivals.” Indeed, their festive nature will surpass that of the other holidays. Since this happiness will come through a process of transformation, it will have a superior quality, “as the transformation of darkness into light.”

This implies that the inner nature of the fasts is positive. This is particularly apparent in regard to the 17th of Tammuz for 17 is the numerical equivalent of the word טוב, meaning “good.” This is reflected in the seventeen “good years” which Yaakov, our Patriarch,1 spent in the land of Egypt (a land whose name alludes to the concept of “boundaries and limitations” and is thus connected with a fast day).

Every Jew is a descendant of Yaakov. In particular, this dimension is revealed when a Jew studies Torah, the service associated with Yaakov. Although all three Patriarchs are referred to as “the forefathers of the Jewish people,” Yaakov shares a greater connection with each individual Jew. Tanya (Iggeres HaKodesh,2 Chapter 7) explains that Yaakov’s soul contained the source for the 600,000 Jewish souls. The connection between these concepts is further emphasized by our Sages’ interpretation of the name Yisrael as an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah.”

[Although the census in this week’s Torah portion included more than 600,000 men, that is possible because the 600,000 souls included in Yaakov’s soul were souls of a general nature. Each one of these souls subdivides into 600,000 particular souls.]

Similarly, Mashiach, who will bring the Jews to their ultimate state of fulfillment, is associated with Yaakov as Bilaam prophesied, “A star will shoot forth from Yaakov and a staff will emerge from Yisrael.”

These concepts should be expressed in action. Each of the Patriarchs is associated with a particular service of G‑d: Avraham is associated with the service of deeds of kindness; Yitzchok, with Avodah, service of G‑d through prayer,3 and Yaakov, with Torah study as mentioned above. Each Jew is obligated to fulfill all three of these services: We are obligated to pray each day, to give tzedakah before prayer and afterwards, we must establish fixed times for Torah study.4 Nevertheless, our obligation to study Torah is much more encompassing in nature. At every moment of the day, every day of the year,5 a Jew is obligated to study Torah. Not a moment of the day should be left empty.

In particular, this should be reflected in sessions of communal Torah study6 as explained by the Previous Rebbe in the maamar, Asarah SheYoshvim, which he released in connection with the first commemoration of Yud-Beis Tammuz. [Together with that maamar, he released the letter which describes the communal nature of his redemption, “The Holy One, Blessed be He, did not redeem me alone... but rather, all who love our holy Torah, fulfill its mitzvos, and all those who bear the name ‘Jew.’ ”]

May this lead to the redemption of the entire people. This is particularly appropriate on the present day, whose numerical equivalent equals טוב, “good,” and the present season, the summer, when the sun shines brightly [reflecting a powerful revelation of the name, Y-H-V-H]. Similarly, it is connected with the present Torah portion, Parshas Pinchas. Pinchas is identified with Eliyahu, the prophet, who will announce the Messianic redemption. Similarly, this week’s Torah portion includes the description of the division of Eretz Yisrael.7 This will be paralleled in the Messianic age by the division of the complete Eretz Yisrael, the land of ten nations, reflecting the ten powers of the soul.8