Five major catastrophes occurred in Jewish history on the 17th of Tammuz: (1) Moses broke the tablets at Mount Sinai, in response to the building of the Golden Calf. (2) The daily offerings in the First Temple were suspended during the siege of Jerusalem in the 5th century BCE. (3) Jerusalem’s walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. (4) Prior to the Great Revolt, the Roman general Apostamos burned a Torah scroll — setting a precedent for the horrific burning of Jewish books throughout the centuries. (5) An idolatrous image was placed in the Holy Temple — a brazen act of blasphemy and desecration.
Tammuz 17 is also the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg (1923-1999), dean of the Ner Yisrael Yeshiva in Baltimore. Rabbi Weinberg descended from the Slonimer chassidic dynasty. As a youth, he studied in Tiberias, Israel where his mother’s relatives lived, and later in New York under Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner. Rabbi Weinberg married the daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak Ruderman, whom he later succeeded as dean of Ner Yisrael. Rabbi Weinberg was known for his unwavering commitment to truth, his masterful logic, and his painstaking clarity in revealing the nuance of every word in the Bible and in Maimonides’ code of law. He lived with the reality of the modern world through the lens of Torah, and had supreme confidence in the Torah’s ability to stand up against any philosophy or scientific theory. He produced generations of Jewish leaders, and was the mentor of his younger brother, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the dean and founder of Aish HaTorah.