With the advent of the month of Tammuz now almost a week behind us, it is time to consider some of the better quality literature that will surely help us to understand the themes that make this season the most somber on the Jewish calendar.
Last year the Orthodox Union, together with Koren Publishers, published a Kinot based upon the works of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l. This same collaborative has once again come to produce an elegant and informed compendium of inspirational readings timely geared to the Shiva Assar B’Tammuz to Tisha B’Av period, with a brief concluding essay for the 10th of Av.
This small 125-page collection of meditations, “In The Narrow Places,” was written by writer and educator Dr. Erica Brown.
The book presents to the reader a short essay for each of the twenty-one days of the three-week observance. According to Brown, this work was aimed to help us better understand what we lost as a nation both historically and in current application, thus justifying the mournful tone. This is especially needed given the distance in both time and on the ground realities that have made for us Jews today experienced in the contradiction of mourning for a Jerusalem that we see today in full bloom, while the Temple Mount still stands in ruins.
Most of the essays are themed to Biblical texts that are found in our sacred liturgy on the Sabbaths and fast days of this time of year. Halachic citations and discussions are not given much play in a book that is intended for inspiration, solace, and comfort.
In reading through this work one will note the skilled use of verses from Eicha, the Book of Lamentat ions, as well as various verses from the liturgy of Tisha B’Av itself, all woven together to bring a practical application of what this season meant to both our ancestors and to ourselves.
Much use is also made of aggadita, rabbinic parables and lore. The prophets are represented prominently by the works of Jeremiah and Isaiah whose works are the centerpiece of haftorah readings at this time of year.