Rosh Chodesh Tammuz
By Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
Why are the months Tammuz and Av months of national destruction and
suffering, and how, despite this, are they destined in the future to
become transformed into the major moadim?
Hashem's creation of the world was done in such a way that even the
material things in it were nourished by Divine Holiness; all food
contained in it the word of G-d. So the Arie explained that the
verse 'Mankind lives not by bread alone but by the word of G-d' means by
the word of G-d that is in the bread. [The Admor of Kotz taught that the
purpose of the birchat hamotzi is to teach us to remove the earthy from
the bread]. It would seem to be demeaning for holiness to be clothed in
petty materialism, yet the purpose of the whole creation is to make the
material holy. Just as the gemara says: "One plants a seed in the ground
in order to reap a large quantity of grain" (Pesachim 87b) to thereby get
bread, so the soul came down to make all the earthy parts of man's body
spiritual and holy.
The months of the year are similarly structured. During the first 3 months
the spirituality and holiness came from on high down to earth; Nissan with
its revelation of miracles in this material world, Iyar with the heavenly
food of Mannah and Sivan when Hashem descended to this material world to
give His Torah. Then follow the months of Tammuz and Av when that holiness
was supposed to reflect what came from Heaven and transform the earthy and
material into the spiritual and sanctity. However, we know that the sin of
Adam Harishon, who was created from the soil, perverted the original plan
of creation, so that his body could not reflect the holiness that poured
down from heaven; that required suffering and death to enable the holiness
within him to ascend heavenward and even then only the neshama could
ascend without the body. That same sin perverted these months as well, so
that they were unable to transform the material and could only release
that holiness that had descended from above while the material in the
tragedy and suffering remained with us. Therefore we can only exist from
the outpouring of kedusha from above that is granted to us in
However, in the future when Adam's sin will be corrected then the merit of
justice that is holiness from below, ascending upwards to Heaven will
predominate; halakhah will be according to Midat Hadin that is Bet
Shammai. That is why Chodesh Tammuz is, according to the order of the
flags of the encampment in the desert, the month of Reuven. Reuven showed
that teshuvah has the power of transformation, so too does Chodesh Tammuz
have the possibility of change; that is why these days of tragedy and
disaster will be turned into festivals in the end of days.
"The mitzvah is for Kiddush Hachodesh to be done through eye witnesses who
actually saw the New Moon" (RoshHashanah, 20a). Reuven's name is similarly
linked to seeing, even as Leah said at his birth: "Hashem has seen my
humiliation… and has given me a son…and she called him Reu-ben" (Ber.
29:32). This month then, with the seeing that is required for this
mitzvah that involves klal Yisrael, is the rectification of the sin of the
Meraglim. We see that the source of their sin was through their eyes as
Moshe commanded them to see the Land. So too, the sin of Adam was induced
through the power of sight, as we read: 'And the woman saw that the tree
was good for eating and a delight to the eyes' (Ber. 3:6). Rashi comments
that this means that the words of the Nachash found favor in her eyes; "'I
see the words'; this means that they find favor with me) [Ketubot, 109a).
Since to the Midrash, the galut of Israel from its Land is analogues to
the expulsion of Adam Harishon from Gan Eden, it should follow that their
entry into Eretz Yisrael should parallel his entry into Gan Eden. So if
their entry would have been in perfect wholesomeness they would have
atoned for his sin. This atonement should begin with seeing the holiness
that is enshrined in the material Eretz Yisrael, that is, it should have
found favor in their eyes. After all, the eyes are the doors to the heart.
So everything is dependent on them and the power of sight, for good or
otherwise. Through Ayin Tovah all good aspects enter the heart from where
they permeate the rest of the body. However the converse is also true as
we read; "Samson sinned through his eyes as he told his parents concerning
the women, 'for she is fitting in my eyes'; therefore the Philistines
gouged out his eyes in Gaza" (Sotah, 9b). Therefore if the Meraglim would
have been able to use the power of their eyes for good, then they would
have made an entrance through which Israel could have entered the Land
with the perfection of all their spiritual feelings and urges.
We know that the word Chet has a dual significance. "It can mean lacking
in something as in 'then I and my son Shlomo will be missing' [chataim]
(Melachim Alef, 1:21).However, it can also mean cleansing or purifying as
in 'purify [teichateini] with hysop' (Tehilim, 51:9) or 'and he shall
cleanse the house[vachitah]'(Vayikrah 14:42). This is exactly the same
dual nature of the power of sight-for good or for evil. So every one who
wishes sincerely to have a pure heart, should train his eyes to see only
Shem Mi Shmuel Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5674.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
r. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.