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Tammuz: Hot or Cold?

Today is Rosh Chodesh Tammuz (ר״ח תמוז). Tammuz has a special designation as the “hot season”. The Gemara in Shabbos speaks about a donkey, that even in Tammuz, is cold. חמרא בתקופת תמוז קרירא ליה. If we would make that comment about the donkey being cold any other time of the year, we could always attribute the donkey’s coldness to a lack of outside heat. But, even in the intense heat of the תמוז season, the the donkey is still cold.

Is it possible that the גמרא is telling us a story without there being a spiritual lesson?

In תמוז begins the 3 weeks of mourning for the Temples amongst other calamities throughout Jewish History. From one perspective, the prophet Yechezkel refers to תמוז as a kind of idol worship that the women used to warm. On the flip side, the source of the tremendous physical heat is great spiritual intensity. We know that everything that we have in our world has a spiritual source in the upper worlds. When it is boiling hot outside, think of ה׳ revealing tremendous blessing too.

Why would we call the name of a Jewish month with the name of an idol? As Jewish people, we choose to look at the positivity and the potential of this month. We see that ה׳ is truly showing us that the essence of the exile is the redemption itself.

Let us return to the donkey.

  • The Aramaic word חמרא that we translated as donkey, can also be describing the physical dimension of the world, חומריות in general.

  • The intense heat of תמוז is the heat, warmth, energy and excitement in performing Mitzvos (מצוות).

  • The cold of the donkey is so pronounced that even in the hottest weather, it is cold. Cold can also describe the coldness that one can feel towards מצוה

Retranslating the גמרא: Our physical drives in the season of the greatest exuberance for Torah, can still be cold and indifferent.

The summer is the time to include rest and recovery in our schedules from the “winter” work months. The warmth allows us to restrengthen and refocus our enthusiasm for study, advancement for good projects, for doing the things that I always wanted to do but did not have the time, or did not think that I really could. We can spend quality time with family and friends and make אהבת ישראל a stronger reality. We can embrace the heat of תמוז as a spiritual boost with love.

There was once a Rav who was wild as a child. When the teacher complained that he could not control this child, a Gadol commented אז ער איז ווילד, מיינט עס אז ער איז קלוג: that it means he is smart.

Although the summer is a break from the official requirements of academy, may we encourage our families and friends with positivity that they can move out of the restrictions that they/we feel constrict them with opportunities for them to shine in special ways.

Have an awesome summer.

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