Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The 17th of Tamuz
To dedicate this lesson

Sad to Die in the Middle of Tamuz?

At first glance, it seems that the purpose of the month of Tamuz is to make us depressed. How should we relate too this month?


Rabbi Haggai Lundin

Sad to Die in the Middle of Tamuz? [From the song by Naomi Shemer]

At first glance, it seems that the purpose of the month of Tamuz is to make us depressed. Although this month opens the summer vacation (a point to its credit), it contains all the components that create a sense of 'bummer': the start of the Three Weeks, scorching weather, and the fatigue that comes with the end of the year. In the book of Ezekiel, Tamuz was the name of an idol with lead eyes, which was worshipped by the burning of a near-by fire, which caused the illusion of tears flowing from its eyes. This spectacle provoked a cult of collective crying by all those present.

What is crying? When there is an encounter with a 'great' reality like the bright light of the sun - a curtain goes down, the eyes tear up and are covered with fog, an opportunity for introspection that helps absorption of the immense light is created. When one encounters an emotional reality beyond his ability of absorption – either tremendous joy or contrastingly, great sorrow - the tears accumulate. God has embedded a biological mechanism in us that helps to face extreme emotional feelings, which helps to absorb, precisely because of the limitation, the visible light in good news or what is hidden in bad news.

There are two Tamuz-like ways of dealing with life. Two worldviews that confront the infinite magnitude of the (sometimes negative) reality that is exposed to our eyes. One is the pagan way reflected in the cult of Tamuz: helplessness, an evil eye, despair, pessimism, crying as a goal in itself, crying for the sake of crying - "And most nations in their riddles and songs say that the evils of time are many and constant" (Malbim on Job 2:11). The second way is the Israeli way: crying as a means, the understanding that "God saw the light that it was good" (Genesis 1:4) - reality as a whole is full of light, while the moments of darkness, the moments of crying, are only a means of revealing the hidden inner goodness.

It is precisely in the month of Tamuz, when the sun shines strongly and the pagans found an outlet for their sense of frustration - the people of Israel are wise enough to deal with the reality of destruction. Coping with the understanding that sometimes, in order to reach the hidden light, one has to go through a dark period. " So said God of Hosts, the fourth fast…will become joy and happiness and good holidays for the House of Judea" (Zechariya 8, 19). Amen.

May this be a good month!
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