1. Our1 Sages relate that the world will exist in its present state for six millennia: Two thousand years of chaos, two thousand years of Torah, and two thousand years of [which include the preparation for] the Messianic era. Thus, at present, in the closing years of the sixth millennia, there is added significance to the period of Bein HaMetzorim when we commemorate the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and look forward to the time when it will be rebuilt.

In particular, this year, there is a unique dimension to this period as emphasized by the fact that it begins and is concluded on a Tuesday [on the dates of the 17th of Tammuz and Tishah BeAv respectively].

Tuesday is singled out as the day on which the expression, “And G‑d saw that it was good,” is repeated. This shares a particular connection to the 17th of Tammuz, since 17 is the numerical equivalent of the word טוב meaning “good” in Hebrew. Thus, the period of Bein HaMetzorim begins on a day whose nature is positive. This reinforces our hope that, as the Rambam writes:

All these fast days will ultimately be nullified in the Messianic age. Furthermore, they will be transformed into festivals and days of happiness and joy.

In this context, the repetition of the expression, “And G‑d saw that it was good,” can be interpreted as referring to two types of good: a) entities whose positive nature is openly apparent; b) a good which comes from “the transformation of darkness to light and bitterness to sweetness,” as will be seen in regard to the 17th of Tammuz.

The concept of repetition is also connected to the Messianic redemption. Our Sages declared:

There are five letters which are repeated [i.e., have two forms, one for when they appear in the midst of a word and one when they appear at a word’s conclusion]. All these letters allude to the redemption. For example, the Tzadi, with it G‑d will redeem Israel in the final years of the fourth kingdom as it is written, “A man [Mashiach], Tzemach is his name. Under him, will flourish....”

The unique dimension of the 17th of Tammuz is enhanced by the Shabbos which follows since the Shabbos elevates the days of the previous week. In general, the Shabbasos of Bein HaMetzorim are above the aspect of mourning. On Shabbos, it is forbidden to carry out any of the rites of mourning associated with these days. On the contrary, these Shabbasos have to be characterized by joy and happiness; indeed, greater happiness than on other Shabbasos to negate the possibility of someone thinking that they are at all associated with sadness.2

In particular, this Shabbos reflects the positive dimensions of the Three Weeks as reflected by its date, the 21st of Tammuz. 21 is the numerical equivalent of the word אך (“only”), and alludes to the verse meaning, “It shall be only good for Israel.”3

The positive aspects of this Shabbos are further emphasized by the weekly Torah portion, Parshas Pinchas. Firstly, the very inclusion of this Torah portion in the period of Bein HaMetzorim is positive. “There is no good other than Torah.” Thus, the addition of a fourth Torah portion (besides Matos, Masei and Devarim which are always read during Bein HaMetzorim) is a positive point.

Furthermore, Pinchas is identified with the prophet Eliyahu who will announce the coming of Mashiach. In addition, the portion begins with G‑d’s declaration, “Behold, I grant him My covenant of peace.” This is Eliyahu’s mission, to establish peace among the Jewish people as the prophet Malachi relates, “Behold, I will send you Eliyahu, the prophet, who will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” This emphasis on peace will nullify the cause of the exile, unwonted hatred.4 When the exile’s cause is nullified, the exile itself will cease.

Similarly, the conclusion of the portion which describes the sacrifices offered on the Sabbath and the festivals alludes to the potential to transform the fast days into holidays and festivals.

The uniqueness of these Three Weeks is related to the Haftoros recited in this time. This period is called “the Three Weeks of Retribution” because the Haftoros of these three weeks, at least on the surface, deal with retribution. Only afterwards, follow “the Seven Weeks of Consolation” whose Haftoros mention prophecies of consolation. There is, however, a positive aspect to these Three Weeks. The numbers three and seven allude to the seven emotional powers and the three powers of intellect. From this, it appears that these Three Weeks are on a higher plane and are also the source for the positive qualities to be expressed in the weeks that follow.

In that context, the word פורעניות rendered as “retribution” can be reinterpreted in a positive context. The Zohar associates Pharaoh (whose name shares the same Hebrew root as פורעניות) “with the revelation of all the sublime lights.” Similarly, these Three Weeks can be the source for a revelation of light that transcends all limits.

This unbounded revelation is reflected in the three Torah portions which are always read during Bein HaMetzorim, the parshiyos: Matos, Masei, and Devarim. Each of these three parshiyos deal with a different dimension of the conquest, division, and inheritance of Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, this includes not only the land of the seven nations which lived on the west side of the Jordan, but also the three nations (the Keni, Knizi, and Kadmoni5 ) whose territory began on the eastern bank of the Jordan. As explained previously,6 the tribes of Reuven and Gad desired to settle in these lands to fulfill G‑d’s promise to grant Avraham the lands of ten nations. Here, we see a fusion of the intellect and the emotions, a conquest of all ten nations alluding to control of all our ten potentials. In particular, the conquest of the lands of the Keni, Knizi, and Kadmoni allude to the positive nature of these Three Weeks which reflect our three intellectual potentials.

The above is enhanced this year by the inclusion of Parshas Pinchas among the Shabbasos of Bein HaMetzorim. In particular, a positive dimension is revealed when the 17th of Tammuz falls on Tuesday. This creates an association between that day and the third aliyah of Parshas Pinchas which describes the division of Eretz Yisrael, stating:

Among these, the land will be divided....7 To a larger [tribe], you shall give a greater inheritance. To a smaller [tribe], you shall give a lesser inheritance.... Nevertheless, you must divide the land by lot.

Thus, three different approaches to the division of the land are mentioned: a) inheritance, b) a division based on the criteria of reason (“To a greater [tribe]...”), c) division by lots. It can be explained that these three different approaches are reflected in the phrase from the liturgy: “Fortunate are we! How good is our portion, how pleasant our lot, and how beautiful our heritage.” Through these three services, we hasten the division of Eretz Yisrael using these three approaches in the Messianic age. Indeed, the division of the land mentioned in Parshas Pinchas can be interpreted as an allusion to that ultimate division of the land.8

The above concepts are also alluded to in the parshiyos, Matos and Masei which are read in today’s Minchah service. Parshas Masei begins, “These are the journeys of the children of Israel when they left the land of Egypt.” In Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe asks: After the first journey, the Jews had already left Egypt. Why are all the journeys linked to this departure? He explains that the ultimate goal of all the 42 journeys was to leave Egypt, i.e., to transcend one’s boundaries and limitations.

Conversely, all the subsequent journeys were included within the first journey which took the Jews out of Egypt. Had the Jews merited, they would have continued directly into Eretz Yisrael, bringing about the Messianic redemption.

Nevertheless, due to the people’s sins, the redemption was delayed and they were forced to wander forty years in the desert. Similarly, this descent brought about the potential for later exiles. The ability to transform these negative elements is also alluded to in this week’s Torah reading. Parshas Matos deals with the subject of vows, including an allusion to the nullification of vows by a Sage.9 This relates to the nullification of all undesirable entities including the exile.

2. Parshas Pinchas also contains a description of the daughters of Tzelophchad’s request to inherit their father’s portion of Eretz Yisrael. The commentaries mention that their love for Eretz Yisrael came to them as a heritage from their ancestor Yosef who also displayed a great love for the Holy Land.

There is also a connection between Yosef and the 17th of Tammuz because Yosef was seventeen years when he was sold into slavery. Our Sages also connect this with the concept that seventeen is numerically equal to good. To explain:

Our Sages relate that after Yaakov’s confrontations with Lavan and Esav, he “desired to live in prosperity.” That desire was not granted immediately. Nevertheless, G‑d set into motion a series of events which led to the ultimate fulfillment of that desire. Yosef’s descent into Egypt eventually led to Yaakov living the 17 best years of his life in prosperity in Egypt. This, in turn, gave the Jews the potential to sustain the hardships of exile, and, ultimately, to transform the exile into a positive quality.

This is connected to the concept that Yaakov10 represents the entire Jewish people. Indeed, his second name, Yisrael, is the name of the people as a whole and, as explained in Tanya, his soul included the soul of each member of our people.

Each of the three Patriarchs represented a different quality in the service of G‑d: Avraham — deeds of kindness, as exemplified in his welcoming of guests; Yitzchok — prayer, as exemplified in his being chosen as a sacrifice; Yaakov — Torah study, as exemplified by his devoted attention to the study halls of Shem and Ever.

Although all these three services are of primary importance and must be fulfilled every day,11 there is a prominence granted to Torah study. Every moment of the day and night, a Jew has the obligation — and the opportunity — to study Torah; this applies even on Tishah BeAv. [Until the present year, for Mashiach will surely come beforehand.] There have been limitations against studying Torah on that day because Torah study brings happiness which is inappropriate on such an occasion. Despite these restrictions, there is an obligation to study those aspects of Torah which are permitted during the entire day.12

The fundamental connection a Jew shares with Torah 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.”13

Our Sages relate that Yaakov taught all the Torah which he had studied to Yosef. Yosef, in turn, transmitted Yaakov’s influence to the entire Jewish people, granting them the potential to reach a complete level of Torah study. Indeed, Yosef related these qualities to the entire Jewish people, those who identified with them and those who, were it not for his influence, would be estranged from their Jewish roots. This is alluded to in Rachel’s association of the naming of Yosef with the prayer, “May G‑d add on to me another son.” This implies that Yosef has the potential to transform someone who is “another,” estranged from his Jewish roots, into a “son.” This quality of transformation will also be expressed in the transformation of the exile into a positive quality.

In particular, there is a greater emphasis on the above in the present generation whose Nasi is named Yosef since “the Nasi includes the entire people.” This is expressed in regard to his redemption which he interpreted as general in nature:

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.”

This year, the 110th anniversary of the Previous Rebbe’s birth, his connection to Yosef receives greater emphasis for that number represents the number of years of Yosef’s life. The Previous Rebbe set the example of spreading Yosef’s service, extending Torah study to all Jews, even those estranged from their Jewish roots. Indeed, he emphasized this dimension in the letter and the maamar he released to mark the first commemoration of Yud-Beis Tammuz, stressing the importance of spreading Torah study to all Jews and highlighting the importance of public sessions of Torah study. Implicit in his words is the promise that the Messianic redemption will be brought about through these activities.

3. Yeshayahu the prophet declares, “Tzion will be redeemed through justice and those who return to through tzedakah.” The Alter Rebbe explains that justice refers to Torah study and that these two activities, Torah study and tzedakah, will bring about the Messianic redemption. In particular, this applies to the study of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah which includes the entire oral law. The above applies to a greater extent on Shabbos, a day which should be utilized to “gather groups together in Torah study.”14 In particular, these concepts are relevant during Bein HaMetzorim.

Also of unique relevance at the present time is the study of the structure of the Beis HaMikdash as revealed in Yechezkel’s prophecies, in the Mishnah in the tractate of Middos, and in the teachings of the Rambam in Hilchos Beis HaBechirah. (To enable people to study all these texts, they have been printed in a single volume.)

Similarly, it is important to hold siyumim (gatherings celebrating the conclusion of Torah texts) during these days including the day of Tishah BeAv itself.15 These directives should be publicized in every place throughout the world.

May these activities hasten the coming of the time when Bein HaMetzorim will be transformed into a period of celebration with the coming of Mashiach.16