By Dr. Terry Segal / firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, the fourth month on the Hebrew calendar, falls on Wednesday, June 17. There are no holidays to celebrate this month, and historically it’s a time of mourning, spirit cleansing, and recalling events that were emotionally out of control.
The singing, dancing and worship of the Golden Calf occurred on the 17th of Tammuz, and Moses smashed the tablets in the heat of his anger. More than 1,000 years later, that same date marked the beginning of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The 17th is a day of fasting and begins three weeks of mourning, ending on the 9th of Av. We’re not supposed to give in to our unbridled passions, buy new clothes, get married, party or cut our hair. But how many people associate those very things with the start of summer? These traditions are often left to Orthodox Jews to continue.
To keep Judaism strong, we need to observe all of our traditions in some form, not just those that appeal to us or are fun. How can mainstream Jews acknowledge the importance of Tammuz? It’s a little rhyme to ask ourselves this month.
Looking to the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) for direction, we see the following:
The Hebrew letter associated with Tammuz is chet, which translates to sin or transgression but also references life.
The Zodiac sign is Cancer, represented by the crab. Those born under this sign are loyal, often powerful, and connected to friends, family and home. They are sensitive beings, sometimes with a hard shell while remaining soft inside. They may use the claw to hold on to the past, people or things longer than necessary.
Cancer is a water sign, connected to emotions. Cancers are aware of their physicality, are honest and responsible, and are justice seekers who gain security through material things. When out of balance, they may become self-absorbed in their feelings, but when aligned with themselves and HaShem, they can be compassionate toward others. The Cancerian view is often black and white. They walk like the crab, to the right or to the left.
They are also seed planters who can nourish the world. We are charged with balancing these energies within ourselves. The sun can scorch seeds that are not watered, but if there is too much water, they are washed away and unable to take root. We must regulate both extremes, recalling Moses’ fiery temper while being mindful of flooding emotions.
Cancer’s ruling planet is the moon, linked to Shechinah, the divine feminine. Throughout each month she is hidden and revealed. We are given many opportunities to practice our own balancing acts. Tammuz and Av (summer months) and Tevet (a winter month) are considered dangerous months in which mistakes can have far-reaching consequences.
The sense in Tammuz is sight. This has several interpretations. We must see clearly. When the sun is too bright, we squint, which narrows our vision. When it’s too dark, our pupils dilate, and we open our eyes wide. To stay focused and balanced, we must look outward to others, inward to ourselves and to G-d. This is how judgment transforms to mercy. We must especially find G-d when it’s dark and search out hidden blessings, even when we think there are none.
The tribe is Reuben, whose name comes from the root “to see.” Although he was the first-born son to Jacob, he was demoted for not controlling the heat of his lust when he lay with his father’s concubine. His actions had a long-lasting negative impact on his relationship with his father, reminding us that mistakes can be forever damaging.
The controlling limb is the right hand. The index finger points to the direction of focus. When we read from the Torah scroll, we use a yad, the small silver finger, to move along each word. When a Jewish couple weds, the groom places the unbroken band on the bride’s right index finger. We need to use this finger to point ourselves to the right path.
If you were to correct your vision, in what areas of your life are you shortsighted, nearsighted or farsighted? What actions can you take to achieve a vision that includes looking inward, outward and toward G-d?