Torah Fax 

Thursday, July 3, 2008 - 30 Sivan, 5768

Torah Reading: Chukat (Numbers 19:1 - 22:1)
Candle Lighting: 8:12 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:21 PM
Pirkei Avot: chapter 4

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz is Thursday and Friday, July 3 - 4

Givers and Takers

Today and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, July 3 & 4, are Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. Generally, Rosh Chodesh forms the bridge that takes us from the spiritual energy
and flavor of one month to the next. Going from the previous month of Sivan to coming month of Tammuz, however, is unique in that the contrast between these two consecutive months is more pronounced than between any other two months of the Jewish calendar.

Sivan, the month in which the Jewish people received the Torah, is a most joyous month; Tammuz is punctuated by the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem that presaged the destruction of the Holy Temple. On the seventeenth of Tammuz this and other tragic events are memorialized by fasting and reciting special penitential prayers called Selichot.
If even the slightest movement within the world of nature is directed by G‑d as the Ba'al Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, taught, certainly
the juxtaposition of these two months is not an accident.
Sivan is the month in which we are given extraordinary spiritual and physical blessings because it is the month in which the Torah was given to us at Mount
Sinai. In the annals of human history there has never been and there will never be, a single event that was as powerful and dramatic a manifestation of G‑d's presence as was the revelation of Sinai. Torah is the very source of blessing and as such is G‑d's greatest gift to humankind. It is even more significant an event when we consider the fact that it was the culmination of the process of the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. In short, during the month of Sivan, we are at an all time high.
Tammuz, by contrast is the month in which Moses shattered the tablets that embodied all that was given to us in Sivan. It is also the month in which the
walls of Jerusalem were breached, as well as other tragedies that are enumerated in the Talmud. It seems that all of what we gained in Sivan was reversed in Tammuz.
If we were to characterize Sivan as the month of Divine gifts, Tammuz (as well as the following month of Av) might be considered the month in which we
forfeited that gift. If Sivan is the month of incredible spiritual elevation, Tammuz is the month of spiritual degradation and decline.
These two months thus represent two alternating phases in our lives. There are times when we feel G‑d's hand touching us and uplifting us. We feel blessed
and fortunate. And then there are times when we are down; we feel overcome with a sense of spiritual and emotional impoverishment. Sivan and Tammuz represent the alternating states of spiritual affluence and impoverishment respectively.
Now there are two ways we can relate to the state of poverty that we go through. The first and more common approach is one of resignation. One will simply
accept the fact that there are good times and there are bad times in life. These are times that we just have to plow through and wait for it to end, hoping and praying that it will be short. The second approach is to draw from the wealth generated in and saved up from better times; attempting to search for and discover the positive within the negative.
To explain: Going through a joyous season can be compared to someone who earns a large sum of money and puts it in a bank or other financial institution
where the capital is secure while it generates interest and dividends that can come in handy for a "rainy day" in the future. To not withdraw funds from the savings account in hard times would appear foolish. After all, wasn't this the very purpose of putting away the money in the first place?
The Biblical model for the above is the story of Joseph who advised Pharaoh to store food in the years of plenty to feed Egypt in the seven years of famine
that were to follow. In this piece of advice Joseph was conveying not only a practical solution to the problem of famine but was also showing us how to cope with adversity in general. 
In times of spiritual and emotional famine, we must draw inspiration from the times in which we experienced the richness of G‑d's blessings. All of the
spiritual energy that was experienced during our festive holidays or the holiness that we generate when we perform a Mitzvah never dissipates. We must use that stored up energy and inspiration in difficult times.
We can now understand that the two contrasting months of Sivan and Tammuz were intended for each other. One of the spiritually richest months of the year is
arguably the month of Sivan and one of the poorest months is Tammuz. How do we cope with the adversity of Tammuz?
The answer is: we must draw inspiration from the month of Sivan and introduce it into the month of Tammuz. This way, the month of Tammuz will be different.
Sivan will neutralize the negative character of Tammuz and even transform it to good. Indeed, the prophet has told us that in the Messianic Age all of the fast days will be transformed into joyous days; fasting will turn into feasting. But where do we get the ability to achieve that transformation? It is from the stored up positive and joyous experiences of Sivan.
The idea that Sivan is the month of inspiration for the month of Tammuz is reflected in the actual numbering of these months. Sivan is hailed as the "third month" of the year, while Tammuz is the fourth. In Hebrew, the numbers three and four are represented by the letters gimmel and
daled, the third and fourth letters of the Hebrew alphabet respectively. The Talmud explains that the words formed from the letters gimmel and daled can be translated as "Gomel Dalim, giving to the poor." Thus the third month of the year (gimmel) is the month of giving and the fourth month of Tammuz (daled) is the month of receiving; when we are compelled to draw from the inspiration of the third month.
There is, however, a catch to this process. In order for the act of tzedakah-charity to take place it requires the cooperation between the donor and the
recipient. If the poor person refuses to accept the assistance from the rich, then there is no act of charity no matter how much effort the donor invests in the act of giving.
It is therefore crucial for us in the month of Tammuz to be receptive to the beneficence of the month of Sivan. In truth, the month of Tammuz is not a bad month in spite of the tragedies that occurred in it, for which we have the fast day on the seventeenth day of the
month. In essence, our Sages teach us, there are two forms of good: revealed good and hidden good. Since the true and essential nature of Tammuz is good, albeit concealed, we can understand how the negative features can be neutralized by introducing the energy of the month of Sivan into it. By introducing the dynamics of Sivan—i.e., by reflecting on the Divine gift of Torah and the love G‑d has for us that it expresses—we help to reveal the true and hidden positive nature of Tammuz.
All of the above applies to all of life's vicissitudes. When we are at a low point in our life we should realize two points: First, all of the negativity
that we might feel is only on the surface. And second, we should reflect on the good energies that we have generated in the past and are still accessible to us. By doing so, it will enable us to expose the hidden good and make it a palpable and overt goodness.
This applies to all of exile that began with the seventeenth of Tammuz 3,320 years ago when Moses shattered the tablets as he witnessed the way
the Jewish people degenerated when they worshipped the golden calf. That event set into motion the destructive energies that made that day the day in which the walls that protected the holiness of Jerusalem were breached. This event unleashed a chain of negative events that led to the subsequent exile that will only end with the coming of Moshiach.
To help us cope with exile we were given the commandment to remember the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Sinai. These remembrances serve as
positive and liberating forces that help us uncover the underlying positive energy within exile existence and serves as the catalyst to bring about the Redemption through Moshiach.   

Moshiach Matters 

The actual date of the Messianic redemption is a guarded mystery unknown to man. It will happen "in its time," predetermined from the beginning of creation. Every generation has a special "time" of its own, for, as stated, Moshiach is alive and present in every generation, albeit concealed. He is ready to be revealed at a moment's notice. In the course of history prior to "its time" there are especially auspicious times when it is easier to effect his coming. To take advantage of these, to hasten the redemption, that depends completely on us. (From Mashiach, by Rabbi J. I. Schochet)

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