Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hidden Summer Rainbows

The Midrash that discusses some of the meaning behind the names of the months explains that Tammuz is named for the idol that bears the same name. It was in this month that Klal Yisrael worshipped the Golden Calf and displayed their desires for idol worship. Therefore, it is befitting that the name of the month reflect this concept. (See Torah Sheleimah Parshas Bo Miluim 177)

Tammuz is also the beginning of the summer. The summer is when the sun is at its highest in the sky (for northern observers) and is certainly when its perceived power is felt the most. The sun is often utilized to express the forces of idol worship. In fact, the Rema mentions that Yirmiyahu HaNavi prophesied about the impending doom of the Beis HaMikdash and the kingdom of Yehuda which was to come from the Babylonian empire. Yirmiyahu describes this destruction as coming from the north. (Yirmiyahu 1:14; this week's Haftarah) The necessity of mentioning the direction of this foe, says the Rema, is because the destruction was a result of idol worship. The sun rises from the east, travels along the southern portion of the sky and sets in the west. It never truly resides on the northern portion of the sky. The sun, says the Rema, is the classic symbol of a deity served by ignorant people. The sun's path should have been a clear lesson to those that served other gods that their gods have no power just as the sun is forced to set. Had the people looked toward the north and understood that it shows the sun's impotence, they would have recognized the error of their ways and would have repented. Since, they did not, the destruction came from that very direction north. (Rema Toras HaOlah 1:16)

The summer, the sun's glorious months, has been a time of destruction for the Jewish people. We just fasted the 17 of Tammuz and historically 9 Av has been a day to mourn the horrific calamities of our past. The summer is currently bittered by the tears of tragedy. Rav Aharon Feldman shlita recently pointed out that the month's of summer, July and August, are the only two that bear the names of Roman emperors. (Mussar given in NIRC 6/2310) The Romans, considered to be the descendants of Eisav, are the nemesis of the Yisrael. Their glory is displayed in the time of destruction.

The Yerushalmi seems to tell over this same concept, but also shows that it is possible to change this time of year from its current destructive nature into a very positive time. (Chagigah 2:2) Rebbi Elazar ben Arach was able to elucidate the heavenly angelic court with such precision during the first day of summer, in Tammuz, that a rainbow was able to be seen in the sky. Rainbows, are not normally seen in the sky in the summer in Eretz Yisrael because it is the dry season and there are not usually clouds or rain. A rainbow is what Yechezkel HaNavi used to express Hashem's glorious heavenly court's beauty. (Yechezkel 1:28)

Perhaps, the Yerushalmi is telling us that normally Tammuz, and the summer, do not contain rainbows. Summer is not the time when Hashem's glory is naturally perceived. Nevertheless, through hard work and dedication, one can break through the veil that hides this glory and allow the glory to shine through. Zechariah HaNavi informs us that in the future these days of mourning will be transformed into festive days. (Zechariah 8:19) May we merit to those days very soon!

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