Thursday, July 06, 2006


by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Time flies by so fast that before we realize it, summer has crept up on us. Most schools across the country have ended and people have set up camp in the mountains, looking forward to a period of calm and carefree living.

Summer is a time to unwind and take life at a slower pace; to focus on rest and recreation. After all, the sun is shining and we’ve been waiting for this break in our schedule for months. We want a vacation not only from work but from weighty issues and troubling situations. We don’t want to be confused with sadness, tragedy and dilemmas of all sorts that sap our energy and blight our day.

But we can’t escape it. Before we know it, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz arrives, ushering in the Jewish period of intense sadness. When we realize that Tammuz is here, we automatically think of the Three Weeks. We think of the Nine Days. And we wish they weren’t there. We wish those weeks commemorating sadness and tragedy wouldn’t have to fall out now.

Why do they have to intrude on our pleasure, ruining everyone’s vacation plans? Why do the Nine Days always have to come out during the month I’m in camp, kids wonder? Why do these weeks of utter sadness have to fall out every single year when the sun is shining brightly? Why couldn’t they make the Three Weeks in February when it is cold and snowy and not as popular a time for wedding making?

It’s Tammuz and the sun is shining. Green grass and beautiful foliage against a blue sky. No clouds on the horizon. A perfect summer day.

You wonder how this picture can be real. How can the sun shine so brightly during these sorrow-laden days? How can the grass be green? How can it be that there are no clouds up in the sky?

The days of Tammuz and Av should be dark and grey. The rain should be gushing. There should be a foot of snow on the ground with everything grounding to a halt. That would be more in sync with all the pain out there in the world. That would correspond to the grief over so many lives that have been snuffed out. There is so much tragedy; so much sadness. How can the sun shine?

Tammuz and Av call out to us and remind us that we have been thrown out of our land and thrust into a world that if not outright hostile, is far from welcoming.

We live in nice neighborhoods, thinking we belong here. We have proprietary feelings about “my town,” “my city,” “my street.” We are so deeply rooted in our homes and our environment, we can’t imagine belonging anywhere else. We are so content in our surroundings, we imagine this is the way the world was meant to be. Permanently.

But then the Three Weeks come and remind us that we are in golus and it is all transitory.

And through it all, the sun shines.

When tragedy occurs, people feel as if the world is ending. It comes crashing down, devastating them. The natural reaction is to think it’s all over. The tragedy the person is facing is just so overwhelming, it’s as if the world is spinning off its axis. Nothing will ever be the same.

But then the sun shines.

A person looks out the window, walks outside and the sun is shining. The sun seems to send a message: “Don’t give up. It’s not all over. There is a master design; a reason for everything. We are all here to carry out His divine plan. Don’t give up. Be positive. Chase away darkness. Chase away the clouds. Find reasons to go on living.”

At times like this; with news like this; when confronted with sadness, with doom and gloom, force yourself to look at the sun and listen to its message: Vezorach Hashemesh Uva Hashemesh.

Tammuz comes during the summer to teach us to never give up. Tammuz comes when the weather is blissful to remind us that once again the sun will shine over Yerushalayim. Tammuz comes, as we seek a change of scenery, to remind us that we should not be b’atzvus about our situation. Whatever is going on, we have to remember that the sun will shine, the flowers will bloom and life will go on.

The churban habayis and other tragedies which befell our people continue to cast a shadow upon our lives. At times of intense happiness, we remind ourselves of the loss; no simcha can ever be complete until Tammuz and Av are turned into months of happiness.

The same is true of our cherished summer months, when we seek a respite from our worries and burdens. As important as that temporary escape is, it should not become our life’s mission, erasing our awareness of the tzaar that besets so many of our brothers and sisters.

One day soon, Tammuz and Av will be months that trigger happy anticipation. One day soon, they will be the harbinger of true simcha, unmarred by sadness and grief, a happiness that will be lasting and complete.


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