The month of Tammuz, as the summer approaches, brings trepidation.
Summer rains are welcome, especially because of the Pipeline Fire, still burning six miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. A blessing, indeed, to notice the rainfall, a few days ago, on the Sabbath, while I was facilitating services at shul. There are large glass windows inside of the sanctuary; although, I did not turn my head away from the prayerbook in front of me on the wooden podium. Both rabbis were out of town; and, I thought to best concentrate to the extreme, instead of drawing attention away from the prayers. Yet, I could hear the downpour as I was singing; and, I smiled silently to myself, within my heart. Soon, the month of Tammuz will bring the beginning of a three week mourning period, for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, both the first and second Temples that were burned down to the ground in Yerushalayim.
As summer approaches, the cool winds cease to soothe my tired soul, yearning for renewal of mind, body, and spirit. The Tunnel Fire has been contained; yet, in New Mexico, the flames continue to engulf the forests. My own dreams, now, only figments of my imagination, pale in consideration of those who have lost their homes. Yet, who can measure the hidden tears, and stifled sobs of the soul, called to let go of what is not feasible? Only through the acceptance of adhering to a greater will than my own, can I be reassured that I am still on the right path; otherwise, I would only fall prey to the deception that I control my own destiny.
You mock yourself, when you do not uphold your own ideals, like the fool, who does not walk the talk. Patiently, you try to succeed, only to fall down a rung or two, on Jacob’s ladder. Do you dare to go where angels tread? Or reach the heights of Icarus? O mortal man, if you cared more for your eternal soul, rather than for the clay vessel where that soul is placed, you would do well.
Spinning around, like a lump of clay on a Potter’s wheel, slowly being shaped into something new, a cup, a bowl, a saucer. You are being molded by the potter’s hand, despite your failings; as the saying goes, may your failures be the bridge to your success. How many times can a lump of clay be remade, until it is finally shaped in perfection? Yet, you have only one life, to live, to permit the master craftsman’s hand to guide you.
Inasmuch that I am inclined by my pensive nature to perpetual reflection, if not melancholy, when the Hebrew month of Av arrives, I look forward to the demarcation between sorrow and joy on the fifteenth of the month, known as Tu b’Av. The month begins with solemn and intense mourning for the destruction of both the first and second Temples, culminating on Tish b’Av – the ninth of Av – the date on the Hebrew calendar when both Temples were actually destroyed, about 6oo years apart from each other. Yet, Tu b’Av is a day of joy, for almost inexplicable reasons; moreover, on the first Sabbath after Tish b’Av, we begin the readings from the prophets that have to do with consolation.
And, so, while the month recalls a world in turmoil, that brought down our sacred building, where the presence of G-d dwelt, we acknowledge that the Jewish people have always rebuilt after times of disruption. Chaos and order was the natural order of progression, beginning with the Creation, when order prevailed over chaos; at least, up until the time of mankind’s expulsion from Gan Eden, after the first act of disobedience towards G-d. Yet, all yearn to return to Him, even if that yearning expresses itself in pathways that sidetrack the route prescribed for return. A wake up call is sometimes necessary to jar ourselves, that we might be shaken out of our confines, to realign with the Divine.
The stars spin around, at heights, above and below the earth’s equator.
On the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the concealment of G-d’s presence is greatest (Accidental Talmudist: Summer Solstice and Judaism). While other ancient traditions mark the day of solstice in their own ways, Jewish tradition evokes the quietude of an inward reflection (Chagigah 14b). Additionally, the month of Tammuz, that always occurs around this time, is a time of introspection, as we prepare to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem, and the subsequent loss of the Temple(s).
Interestingly, the summer has already begun, according to the religious calendar of prayer, whereas the liturgy demarcates only two seasons: summer and winter, encompassing two seasons each, out of the four observed on the civil calendar. On the first day of summer, on the liturgical calendar, the Tefillat Tal (Prayer for Dew) is recited. This always occurs on the first day of Passover in the Spring (according to the four seasons model).
O Aviv, upon your full moon, hinge all of the promises anew. The grains of the barley harvest, are roasted, ground, and sifted. Mixed with oil, a handful of frankincense placed on top. Then, consumed by the flames, it’s smoke arises to Shomayim. Thus, completed, we may partake of the abundance of the harvest.
The sheaf of the first fruits stands as a reminder across the generations. To all who aspire towards righteousness, as upright sheaves, standing in the field. Waiting for the harvest, we seek renewal, when the day arrives for joyful reaping. And, the sheaves will be gathered, waived like lulav branches in the wind. Carried across the lands of the earth, to be planted anew in Yerushalayim.
Pesach offering, unleavened bread, wine, and guests; waiting for next year.
Sometimes, like an ineffable puzzle, my mind rests in the midst of an incomplete picture, with the past on hold, and the future on pause. Time seems to be a superimposed structure upon eternity. Mood becomes everything – the ultimate color of an endless reality, never changing, always experienced from the center of being. The rain is a reminder that everything happens in the present moment.
Worry dissipates, fear diminishes, and peace reigns in the stillness of the heart. A meditative experience that blends into the passing hours of the day. There is no room for regret, nor concern for tomorrow. The potential of renewal exists in every moment of time, that passes unnoticed, because there is no linear reckoning of time as such. As is written, G-d placed eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11).