1 Tammuz 5764
A TIME FOR TEARS
As women, many of us are quite accomplished criers. While the end-of-the-year maelstroms of tears are fresh in our minds, let us attempt to swim deeper into the sea called dimah and bechi.
Tamuz: While the rest of the world rejoices in the freedom and revelry that accompany the summer months, we Jews prepare to grieve and to mourn. It is well known that the current names of the Jewish months do not have their origins in the Torah. So from where does our new month receive its name?
Yechezkel, in his epic Maaseh Hamerkavah, recounts sins that he envisions during this revelation:
“Vayavei osi el pesach sha’ar Beis Hashem asher el hatzafonah v’hinei sham hanashim mivakos es haTamuz” – So He brought me to the northern gate of the house of Hashem and see there! The women sit causing the Tamuz to cry OR crying for the Tamuz (Yechezkel, 8:14).
One might wonder: What is a “Tamuz” and how does one make it cry or cry for it? Rashi informs us of a mannequin idol, named Tamuz, with eyes of lead that would appear as if it were crying when a fire was lit inside of it, causing the lead to melt. Thus the lead rolling from the idol’s eyes would make it appear as if it were begging for sacrifices. The women would then come and attempt to pacify this sorrowful deity. The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim, 3:29) speaks of a “prophet” named Tamuz who was executed by the idolatrous king due to his differing views regarding pagan worship. The first day of the month of Tamuz was his memorial day on which specifically the women would mourn his loss. Finally, the Radak avers that Tamuz is a noun that depicts burning; in this case, the burning of children for the sake of sacrifice. The women would cry over the loss of those children.
Regardless of the opinion followed, all of the scenarios mentioned depict what we might call “crocodile tears,” or tears cried in foolishness and vain. And by whom are these tears shed? You got it– none other than by the women!
Interesting then, that the midah of this month is that of sight and its element is water (Glazerson, Above the Zodiac). The Zohar, at the beginning of Parashas Shelach, writes that the Jewish people blemished their power of sight with the sin of the miraglim. The miraglim returned to the desert after forty days of clouded vision to spearhead the ultimate night of bechiyah l’chinam- crying for nothing. We know that this night was the night of the 9th of Av which tragically became a night of bechiyah l’doros – crying for generations. A little bit of quick mathematics reveals, then, that this ill fated mission took place almost entirely in the month of Tammuz!
Is this month indeed all about tragedy?
In his Ohel Dovid commentary on Yechezkel and Rus, R’ Dovid Cohen expounds on the koach of the month of Tamuz. This is the month in which the luchos were both given and subsequently broken. It is a month in which the hisorirus mil’malah- the G-dly awakening to extend His benevolence- is aroused, but remains latent in the hands of mankind to bring to fruition. It is in Tamuz that we observe the harvested crops sitting in the fields and awaiting their future selection. Using these concepts, he turns our attention to the story of the Book of Rus. Naami did not immediately attempt to betroth her newly widowed daughter-in-law Rus, but waited instead for three months to pass from the date of Machlon’s demise. Chazal teach us that the time of ki’tzir hachitim, the harvest season- when Rus’ husband Machlon died- was the 16th of Nisan. Therefore, Naami spoke to Rus about her prospective idea on the 15th of Tamuz. It was then on the night of the 16th of Tamuz when Rus paid that surreptitious visit to Boaz. Finally, it was the night of the 17th of Tamuz on which Boaz married Rus, upon which she conceives. The Midrash notes that, unbeknownst to Boaz, Rus actually had no womb and it was on that night that Hashem miraculously gave her one. She received her hisorirus mil’malah that night and it was brought to fruition only nine months later with the birth of her son Oved… and later on Dovid HaMelech. We thus see that Tamuz is, ultimately, a month filled with koach, potential, waiting to be brought out li’poel- into the realm of action.
We all know that bringing out potential is always challenging, often painful and confusing. As the power of sight holds within it the potential of leading us astray (“what a great looking movie”) it is also one that builds futures (“that’s my kallah under that veil!”). And while water has the ability to wreak havoc and destruction, it is also the precious liquid that sustains the world.
As women, we possess the ability to keep our tears in check. After all, who didn’t cry on that fateful night in the desert?! The Radak, in his commentary on the posuk from Yechezkel quoted earlier, grammatically compares the word “mivakos” to “Rachel mivakah al bane’hah” (Yirmiyahu, 31:15). What a contrast: The tears of these women over what appeared to be meaningful but was truly a farce, and the tears of our mother Rachel which will enable the eternal salvation of her children!
That great-grandson of Rus, Dovid HaMelech, promises us that, “hazorim bedim’a b’rena yiktzoru,” “those who plant in tears will harvest in joy” (Tehillim, 125:5). Let us use our koach of dimah wisely, recognizing that we do not want to “plant” in vain for it will surely produce weeds and thorns. Tamuz is a time when we can use our gift of vision to see all the beauty and kedusha that is waiting to be gathered in. Let us remember the great Rus who demonstrated that patience and faith can stir HaKB”H to set the stage for Moshiach Tzidkeinu. All the more so, let us emulate the persistence of our Mama Rachel who was promised “Vi’shavu banim lig’vulam”. Let us daven for the day soon when Hashem will declare, “My cup is full!”, and there will no longer be a need for any more tears.
“U’macha Hashem Elokim dimah mei’al kol panim” (Yeshayahu, 25:8).
All my love to my special friends from Sharfman’s – always thinking of you!
Hatzlachah with everything!