1. There is a unique dimension to the 17th of Tammuz this year when it falls on the fifth day of the week connected with Parshas Pinchas. As explained by the Alter Rebbe, we must “live with the times,” i.e., derive a lesson which is relevant to our lives from the weekly Torah portion.

The section of the weekly portion associated with the present day, the fifth aliyah in Parshas Pinchas, is intrinsically related to the 17th of Tammuz. The connection can be explained as follows: The above mentioned aliyah begins with the commandment to sacrifice the daily burnt offerings. One of the five catastrophes that took place on the 17th of Tammuz is that the sacrifice of these offerings was nullified. On the 17th of Tammuz, for the first time, these offerings were not brought in the Beis HaMikdash.

The purpose of the present address, referred to as divrei kivushin, is to motivate the people to teshuvah. By remembering the catastrophes which took place on the fast days, we can correct our behavior. Accordingly, the fact that the portion of Torah studied today deals with the daily offerings places special emphasis on correction of the catastrophe of the nullification of the daily offerings. Our Sages teach, “Whoever studies the laws of the burnt offerings is considered as if he sacrificed a burnt offering.” Also, such study hastens the coming of the time when we will sacrifice the daily offerings again in the Third Temple.

The concept of the nullification of the daily offerings is also related to the other catastrophes that took place on the 17th of Tammuz. For example, on the 17th of Tammuz, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. The central aspect of Jerusalem was the Beis HaMikdash1 and furthermore, the destruction of Jerusalem led directly to the Beis HaMikdash’s destruction. What was the fundamental purpose of the Beis HaMikdash? The Rambam explains that the mitzvah to build the Beis HaMikdash is “to construct a house for G‑d prepared for sacrifices to be offered within,” the essence of those sacrifices being the daily offerings which were the first and final sacrifices offered each day.

The destruction of Jerusalem is associated with the penetration of the city’s wall by the Romans. The daily offerings mentioned above can be compared to the city’s wall. Just as the wall surrounds and includes within it all the aspects of the city, the daily offerings surrounded and included within all the other sacrifices in the Beis HaMikdash.

Accordingly, today’s portion of Torah study has the potential to compensate for the offering of the daily offerings and — by inference — all the other offerings of the Beis HaMikdash. Thus, at the very beginning of the three weeks, with this emphasis on the sacrifices of the Beis HaMikdash, we can already transform the negative aspects of the Beis HaMikdash’s destruction into positive qualities.

2. The above is also associated with the concept that the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word טוב, “good,” is 17. On the surface, the question can be asked: The 17th of Tammuz is a day on which five catastrophes occurred including the destruction of Jerusalem, the event which led directly to the present exile. Why is such a date associated with the numerical equivalent of good? It appears to be a day associated with the very opposite of good.

This question can be resolved within the context of the Rambam’s statements that “ultimately, all these fasts will be nullified in the Messianic age. Furthermore, they will be transformed into days of happiness and celebration.”

We can understand that since, ultimately, they will be transformed into days of happiness, even now, the inner message of these days is one of happiness. It is, however, a happiness which is at first, hidden, and only later comes into revelation. Indeed, the good is so great that it is drawn down in a manner that, at first, it appears as the opposite of good, so that later the day can be transformed to the higher and more complete quality of good. Thus, Divine Providence ordained that these events transpire on the 17th of Tammuz to teach us that, in essence, the day is a day of good and that from the transformation of the darkness can come a higher quality of light.

The “good” of the 17th of Tammuz is associated with the days of the month which shares an intrinsic connection to the Jewish people. Our Sages explained that the Jews follow a lunar calendar because they “resemble the moon.”

The exact expression used by our Sages is “they count according to the moon.” Counting brings out the importance a quality has. Accordingly, our Sages say, “An entity which is counted can never be nullified.” Similarly, the Jews associate every entity with holiness by relating it to the counting of the days according to the moon. This endows each entity with unique importance.

This, in turn, emphasizes the dearness of the Jewish people. Our Sages state, “Because they are dear to Him, He counts them at all times.” The latter concept is also related to the Torah reading which was just read that conveys G‑d’s response to Moshe’s request that “I and Your people be uniquely distinguished from every [other] nation on the face of the earth.”

3. The concept of the daily offerings also has its parallels in our service of G‑d. The sacrifices can be seen as representing the totality of man’s service as implied by the verse, “A person who will offer a sacrifice of you2 to G‑d.” The sacrifice must be “of you,” i.e., a person must bring himself as a sacrifice, dedicating his soul to G‑d.3 There are different sacrifices to be offered at different times because of the different types of service required at these times. It is through this service of mesirus nefesh that one can transform darkness into light and reveal the inner good of these three weeks.

The concept of a wall and its parallel in the daily offerings is also reflected in our service to G‑d as our Sages declared, “Make a fence around the Torah.” The practices ordained for this reason “surround” our Torah practice and ensure that it remains complete.4 We can see the importance of observing these aspects of Torah from the fact that breaching Jerusalem’s walls ultimately led to the destruction of the entire city and the Beis HaMikdash. From this, we can appreciate the importance of observing those practices which are a “fence” and a “wall” around the Torah.5

We will conclude with the distribution of money to be given to tzedakah. May this hasten the coming of the redemption as our Sages state, tzedakah brings close the redemption” and then, we will proceed to Eretz Yisrael. Every Jew has his portion in Eretz Yisrael6 and in the Messianic age, all the Jews will return to this holy land. They will have dominion over the entire land for, as its very name implies, it belongs to the Jews as a people and to each and every Jew as an individual.

In Eretz Yisrael, we will proceed to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem, to the Beis HaMikdash, and to the Holy of Holies where the ark which contains the tablets7 is kept. May all this be revealed immediately when together with the Nasi of our generation and all the seven Nesi’im, we will merit the coming of Mashiach.