Ben Hametzarim

Rabbi Julian Sinclair's dip into the dictionary

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 23, 2009

The three weeks between the fasts of Tammuz 17 and Av 9 next week are called the period of bein hametzarim, between the straits or narrow places. The phrases comes from the Book of Lamentations: its author Jeremiah writes of the Jewish people’s persecution in exile: “All her pursuers overtook her bein hametzarim.” Rashi explains the phrase as “between field and vineyard”, in narrow places where was no hope of fleeing. He then quotes the Midrash that reads bein hametzarim as between the two fasts, “during which bitter destruction is found”.

The Lithuanian commentator Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein explains bein hametzarim as the Jewish people’s inability to flee to safety from persecutors because they would always get caught on the border (the narrow place).

The Lebanon War of 2006, which began on 16 Tammuz and lasted 34 days, was referred to by many people as the War of Bein Hametzarim.

Last updated: 4:20pm, July 23 2009