1. The Alter Rebbe writes (Iggeret Hakodesh Ch. 2) that an acceptable fast is a desirable day. Although the Alter Rebbe is referring to fast days undertaken by an individual as part of teshuvah (repentance), it also applies to those fasts fixed by Shulchan Aruch associated with tragic events. In our case, this is the 17th of Tammuz, which, although seemingly the opposite of an auspicious day, becomes, through Jews’ fasts, a “desirable day to G‑d.” This is evidenced by the Haftorah read on the 17th of Tammuz (and other fasts), in which it states: “Seek the L‑rd while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” This shows that on a fast G‑d “may be found” by and “He is near” to all Jews — the idea of a “desirable day.”

Moreover, the Talmud explains that this verse (“Seek the L‑rd ...”) applies to the Ten Days of Repentance, when G‑d “may be found” and “is near” to each individual Jew — i.e. an individual in the Ten Days of Repentance has the power to effect that which a “congregation” can effect the entire year. Likewise with all other days on which this verse is said, indicating that a fast day (on which this verse is said in the Haftorah) is the ultimate in a “desirable day to G‑d.” For although a fast is associated with a bad event, when Jews fast, not only do they abolish the bad things, but convert it to a “desirable day to G‑d.”

This is achieved through a fast, particularly when ten (or more) Jews gather together and pray in unison, learn Torah together, and give tzedakah together — all connected to a fast. This is especially so when we are now at the time of Minchah: Minchah is an auspicious time, as our Sages say “Eliyahu was answered only in the Minchah prayer;” and particularly when we are now in the week of parshas Pinchus, of whom our Sages say “Pinchus is Eliyahu.” Hence, the Minchah prayer on a fast adds to the distinction of it being a “desirable day to G‑d.”

The above applies to all fast days. In addition, each fast day has its own particular events which must be converted to a “desirable day to G‑d.” The Mishnah states: “Five things happened to our fathers on the 17th of Tammuz” — each of which must be converted to good. We find just such a conversion immediately after the first thing that happened on the 17th of Tammuz, the breaking of the tablets. The tablets were broken as a result of the sin of the golden calf. Immediately afterwards, the calf was burnt, as stated “He (Moshe) took the calf which they had made and burnt it in fire.” Fire destroys completely, and hence the calf (the cause of the breaking of the tablets) was completely — and immediately — destroyed. Moreover, not only was the calf destroyed, but the ashes which were left were converted to good, as it states: “He sprinkled (the ashes) on the water and he gave to drink the children of Israel.” This teaches us that through teshuvah, the most base thing can be converted to good.

The conversion of the tragic events that happened on the 17th of Tammuz are abolished through our service and deeds. Since each fast is associated with special events, our service must be directed to those events in particular. In the words of the Rambam: “There are days on which all Israel fast because of the trouble that happened then, to inspire the hearts to open to the ways of teshuvah ... for in the remembrance of these things we will return to good.”

2. One of the events of the 17th of Tammuz was that then the “wall of the city (of Yerushalayim) was breached (by the enemy).” In spiritual terms, “wall” refers to Torah. Besides Torah effecting a wondrous union between man and G‑d’s wisdom, it also acts as a “wall” to guard a Jew against undesirable influences, influences antithetical to Judaism. And since Judaism is the very essence of a Jew, Torah thus protects a Jew’s essence. When, for whatever reason, the wall is breached, we must strengthen it by adding stones to it — by increasing in Torah study. And just as the fasting on the 17th of Tammuz applies to all Jews, so too all Jews must strengthen the “wall” of Torah by increasing in its study.

In practical terms, this teaches that every Jew must make good resolutions in all matters connected with the “wall which is Torah,” beginning with increased study of Torah, both qualitatively and quantitatively. In Torah study itself, increase should be made in those matters associated with these days: In the 3 weeks (between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av) one should increase in the study of the laws of the Bais Hamikdosh, the “House” in which G‑d chose for His Presence to dwell. This choice is connected with the choice of Yerushalayim above all other cities, the choice of Eretz Yisroel above all other countries, and the choice of Israel above all other peoples. Additionally, extra efforts must be made to ensure that all Jews have a letter in one of the general Sifrei Torah, thus including them in the category of “all who are found written in the Book.”

Through the above we abolish the “breaching of the wall,” and indeed, we see openly that Yerushalayim exists eternally, since it is the “capital city” of G‑d Who is eternal. Then we merit the building of the eternal Bais Hamikdosh “on the holy mountain in Yerushalyim.”

So that the fulfillment of all this should be “hastened,” each Jew must increase in zeal for his service regarding his “inner” Yerushalyim, Yerushalayim meaning “Yirah Sholem,” the “perfection of fear.” This is achieved especially through Torah study — “Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of G‑d from Yerushalayim,” and “the word of G‑d is the Halachah.” That is, Torah study should be to arrive at the halachah, teaching a Jew how to act in this world, thereby making a Jew master of the world — and causing the world to be fit to receive G‑d’s Kingship.

From “the word of G‑d is the Halachah” we go to “the word of G‑d is the end (of the exile),” speedily in our times, when Yerushalayim will spread over the whole Eretz Yisroel, and Eretz Yisroel will spread over all the lands.

* * *

3. There is an additional matter particularly associated with our times. The 17th of Tammuz follows the 12th and 13th of Tammuz, the festival of liberation of the previous Rebbe. This is relevant to all Jewry, as the previous Rebbe writes: “G‑d did not redeem only me on the 12th of Tammuz, but also all those who love our holy Torah, observers of mitzvos, and also those who are Jews merely in name.” This is achieved by binding oneself with the study of His Torah, thereby effecting a wondrous union with the previous Rebbe. Since the 12th and 13th of Tammuz precede the 17th of Tammuz, especially this year when the 12th of Tammuz is on Shabbos — “from which all the days of the following week (including Thursday, the 17th of Tammuz) are blessed” — these days of liberation add to the conversion of the tragic events of the 17th of Tammuz.

There is a special matter particularly relevant to this year: The chapter in Tehillim of the previous Rebbe this year is chapter 103. “Eigel — Calf” in Hebrew has the numerical equivalent of 103. Obviously, when talking of Ch. 103 in Tehillim, its connection to the idea of the “calf” is in regards to the good elements it contains. Our Sages explain that the golden calf is associated with the “face of the ox” that is in the Heavenly Chariot. It is also associated with the 103 “faces” (ways) in learning Torah, all of them according to the Halachah. And finally, the ultimate in a Jew’s service — to convert the sin of the calf to merit. This is the special connection of the 12th of Tammuz this year to the 17th of Tammuz: As explained previously, immediately after the breaking of the tablets (caused by the sin of the golden calf), it was converted to good — “He took the calf which they had made and he burnt it in fire ... and he sprinkled (the ashes) on the water and he gave to drink the children of Israel.”

The beginning of Ch. 103 in Tehillim is “[A Psalm] by Dovid: Bless the L‑rd, 0 my soul” — a prayer of thanks and praise to G‑d. This chapter continues to explain that G‑d does not take heed of deeds (and speech and thought) which are unworthy. Indeed, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” G‑d removes transgressions and all undesirable things as far as possible, completely eliminating any connection between them and Jews. This, as the chapter continues to say, is done in the manner of “as a father pities his children, so the L‑rd pities those who fear Him” — which refers to all Jews.

Then we come to the conclusion of this Psalm: “Bless the L‑rd, His angels, mighty ones who perform His bidding, listening to the voice of His word.” Our Sages explain that this means “First they perform, then they listen”: Jews first obey, then listen to (understand) the reason for the commandment, as our Sages state “At the time when Israel said they would first obey then listen, a Heavenly Voice said to them: Who has revealed to My sons this secret which the ministering angels use, as it is written ‘Bless the L‑rd, His angels, mighty ones who perform His bidding, (then) listening to the voice of His word.’”

This is the concept of “Bless the L‑rd, 0 my soul.” “Bless” stems from the root “draw down,” meaning that each Jew draws down in his service to G‑d the three things of Torah, prayer, and performance of mitzvos: Prayer: “Bless the L‑rd, 0 my soul” — the idea of praise; performance of mitzvos: “Who perform His bidding;” Torah: “listening to the voice of His word,” which is Torah study. And since the world stands on these three things, a Jew through his service in the above keeps the world fully in existence.

Then we merit the principal concept of the fullness of the world — the “fullness of the land, Eretz Yisroel, the “land which ... the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” This is achieved through the concept of “Bless the L‑rd, His angels,” “angel” stemming from the root “messenger,” referring to each Jew who is a messenger of G‑d to make this world a dwelling place for Him through the performance of mitzvos (“who perform His bidding,” and “honor the mitzvos for they are My messengers”). In general, this is the fullness of the Torah and its mitzvos.

All this is effected in the manner of the “fullness of the people” — every Jew acts in Ahavas Yisroel to another, and therefore educates his fellow in all the matters of Torah, tefillin, mezuzah, tzedakah, house full of Jewish books, Shabbos and Yom Tov lights, kashrus, and family purity.

Through the “fullness of the Torah” together with the “fullness of the people” we merit the “fullness of the land,” extending to the fulfillment of the promise “The L‑rd will broaden your boundaries.” As a preparation to this, all actions associated with the security of Eretz Yisroel should be increased, even those actions that need to be done outside Eretz Yisroel; and to complete those operations already started. And to strengthen these things, we must increase in fear of G‑d, thereby meriting the fulfillment of the promise “All the peoples of the earth will see that the Name of the L‑rd is called upon you and they shall fear you,” and “they shall flee before you in seven directions.”

Very speedily we go to receive our righteous Moshiach, when these days will be converted to joy and happiness and festive occasions.