By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
The Prophet Zechariah taught that the series of fast days commemorating the downfall of Jerusalem are but temporary measures. Zechariah foretold that “the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth month, and the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month (Shivah Asar b’Tammuz, Tishah b’Av, Tzom Gedaliah and Asarah b’Tevet, respectively) shall become for the House of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts!” (Zechariah 8:19).
The Rabbis explain Zechariah: During an era of redemption and peace for the Jewish People, the fasts become feasts. During times of persecution and subjugation, fasting remains in order. When neither redemption nor subjugation is complete, the fasts are rendered optional! (Rosh Hashanah 18B).
American Jews should contemplate the fact that July 4, 1776 – the signing of the Declaration of Independence – coincided with Shivah Asar b’Tammuz – “the fast of the fourth month”!
As we celebrate the Fourth of July… as we cheerfully feast on Independence Day… we who are heirs to the Prophecy of Zechariah do well to perceive in the nation founded on 17 Tammuz 5536 – and in the very selection of that fateful date – the guiding hand of Divine Providence… and a major step forward in our unfolding, though, alas, as yet incomplete progress toward Redemption!
Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.