Sunday, July 06, 2008


Today is Gimmel Tammuz.

I find this day difficult to define. Some will simply call it the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe, but it is significantly more than that. A Tzadik’s passing is anything but ordinary.

This morning I bumped into a colleague who described how a congregant had asked him: "Do I wish you 'long life' today?"

No, it's not a mournful day.

It's not a festive day either. After all, Gimmel Tammuz reminds me of the good times when the Rebbe inspired us every single week, called on us to achieve the impossible and reminded us uneqivocally that G-d runs the world and that Moshiach is on our doorstep.

Gimmel Tammuz is a day suspended between day and night, between sadness and joy, between nostalgia and hope.

This is the nature of the day- as it has been for centuries. The 3rd of Tammuz became famous over 3000 years ago, when Joshua led the Jewish nation in conquest of the Promised Land.

Overwhelmed by the Jews’ miraculous victories, the people of Givon made a truce with the invading Israelites. Soon enough five kingdoms attacked Givon, who then called on Joshua for help. G-d assured Joshua that he’d defeat those powerful armies and Joshua led his forces into battle at the Ayalon valley.

Joshua’s troops closed in on this huge allied force and, by day’s end, were poised to defeat them. It was getting late and the light was failing. After dark, they would have to stop fighting, which would allow the Canaanite forces to regroup.

G-d intervened and allowed Joshua to stop the sun just above the western horizon and suspend the moon as it rose in the east. During this unique daylight savings time, Joshua wiped out the attacking armies.

I’m sure you’ve heard that story, it’s very well-known. I doubt you knew it had happened on Tammuz 3rd. Most people don’t.

Gimmel Tammuz is a paradox. Both the sun and the moon share the sky. It is a day that’s outside of the ordinary- technically night, but still light.

On this day, the moon hangs in the darkening sky; reminding us of those wonderful times we had with the Rebbe, which are now on hold.

Yet, the sun has not set. Kabbalah defines a Tzadik’s yahrtzeit as a time of celebration, as his soul soars higher and his lifetime’s achievements resonate more strongly through the world.
Talmudic lore calls wicked people dead while they are still alive, and deems the righteous alive, even after their deaths. Jewish mysticism adds that a Tzadik’s impact on the world increases after his passing.

The Rebbe’s yahrtzeit is not simply a nostalgic time, but an empowering time.
Gimmel Tammuz is when- in the words of the Zohar- “Crying is entrenched in one side of my heart and joy in the other”.

Today reminds me how much all us Chassidim- and thousands of others- miss the Rebbe, as it reminds me that he is always with us. It is a day full of memories of his crystal-clear guidance to individuals and to nations; guidance we can still find today.

And these memories will reassure me of his crystal-clear vision that our world is in mid-preparation for Moshiach.

G-d first made Gimmel Tammuz famous with a spectacular miracle in the Ayalon valley. May He honour this Gimmel Tammuz with an even greater miracle.

1 comment:

Shoshanna Silcove said...

You're reflecting some of my own sentiments about Gimel Tamuz, not quite a yartzeti, not quite a Yom Tov either. This also reflect my own emotional ambivalence since the Rebbe's passing. We are living in a sort of spiritual twilight zone.