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March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 5775
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Shabbos Mevorchim Tammuz

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On this Shabbos, Parshas Shelach, we bentch Rosh Chodesh Tammuz which falls on the following Shabbos Kodesh and Yom Rishon (June 8 and 9 on the English calendar).

The month of Tammuz is devoid of holidays. Moreover, the seventeenth day of the month (Shiva Assar b’Tammuz) is a solemn fast day that heralds the beginning of the three-week mourning period culminating in Tisha B’Av — during which we refrain from indulging in any form of entertainment and frivolity.

These twenty-one days have been associated with misfortune and tragedy from way back… as when Moshe Rabeinu came down the mountain with the Luchos in hand only to confront a maddening sight of a people dancing around a golden calf. Shocked to the core, Moshe dropped the Tablets and shattered them.

It was on the 17th of Tammuz that Moshe sent spies into the Holy Land to check out its viability — an affront to our Creator Who had just wrought the greatest miracles for us, and yet there were those who had the audacity to harbor reservations about the land He promised to lead us to.

Apostamus, a Greek ruler, placed an idol on the grounds of the Temple and publicly burned a Torah scroll on the 17th of Tammuz. And it was that same date that tragically saw the walls of Yerushalayim breached, leading to the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdosh and the cessation of the daily Korban Tamid offering.

Some of the Yahrtzeits we commemorate during Tammuz: R’ Shlomo ben Meir Nosson Halberstam – first Bobover Rebbe (1 Tammuz); R’ Avraham Twersky – the Trisker Maggid (2 Tammuz); R’ Menachem Mendel ben Levi Yitzchak Schneerson – 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe (3 Tammuz); R’ Yaakov ben Meir Rabeinu Tam and R’ Pinchas HaLevi Horowitz of Frankfurt (4 Tammuz); R’ Moshe ben Yaakov Shimshon of Kosov (6 Tammuz); R’ Boruch Frankel (Tumim) and R’ Simcha Bunim Alter of Ger – the Lev Simcha (7 Tammuz); R’ Shlomo ben Yehuda HaKohen and R’ Meir ben Eliezer Horowitz of Dzikov (8 Tammuz); R’ Yekusiel Yehuda ben Tzvi Hersh Halberstam – the Klausenberger Rebbe (9 Tammuz); R’ Tzvi Hirsch of Zhidichov (11 Tammuz); R’ Yaakov ben Asher – Baal HaTurim (12 Tammuz); R’ Elchanan Bunim Wasserman and R’ Moshe ben Naftali Rivkash – author of Be’er Hagolah (13 Tammuz); R’ Aryeh Leib ben Asher Ginzberg – the Shagas Aryeh (15 Tammuz); Chur – son of Kalev and Miriam (16 Tammuz); R’ Eliezer Yehuda ben Nosson Tzvi Finkel – Rosh Yeshivas Mir (19 Tammuz); R’ Moshe ben Yaakov Cordovero – the Ramak (23 Tammuz); R’ Yaakov Yosef ben Dov – New York’s 1st and only chief rabbi (24 Tammuz); R’ Meir HaLevi of Apta (25 Tammuz); Yosef HaTzaddik ben Yaakov Avinu and R’ Elazar Abuchatzeira (27 Tammuz); R’ Elazar of Lizhensk, R’ Moshe ben Tzvi Hirsch Teitelbaum – the Yismach Moshe and R’ Shlomo ben Yosef Ganzfried – author of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (28 Tammuz); R’ Yochanan HaSandlerTanna and R’ Shlomo ben Yitzchok – Rashi (29 Tammuz).

Taking into account that it was due to our negligence as a Godly people that we lost our precious Bais HaMikdosh and were driven into golus, the life and times of Yosef HaTzaddik – whose birth and petirah occurred in Tammuz – offer us insight in how to endear ourselves to the Ribono Shel Olam.

When Yaakov left Lavan’s house with his entourage and was to encounter his brother Eisav, he made sure that his beloved Rochel lagged behind everyone else. Yaakov feared that Eisav would set his eyes on his attractive wife and desire her. Yosef, a mere lad at the time, placed himself in front of his mother, stretching himself as tall as he could in order to shield her from Eisav’s view.

At the same time, Yaakov’s apprehensiveness in exposing his young daughter, Dinah, to Eisav impelled him to hide her in a box. Hashem punished him for this (for had Eisav married Dinah, she might have had a positive influence on him) by having Dinah fall under the spell of Shechem, who took advantage of her and brought shame upon Yaakov’s household.

Dinah’s union with Shechem produced a daughter, Osnat. Osnat was eventually sent out of Yaakov’s home, but not before her grandfather placed a necklace with a kimaya round her neck, engraved with the name of Hashem and the child’s ancestry. The malach Gavriel brought Osnat to the home of the childless Potiphar where he and his wife raised her as their own.

Following Yosef’s untoward episode with Potiphar’s wife (who as we know was besotted with Yosef’s good looks and set out to seduce him – in due course maliciously accusing him of having wanted to have his way with her), Osnat ended up testifying to Yosef’s innocence.

As Egyptian viceroy, Yosef’s immense appeal had young maidens clamoring for his attention. They literally climbed walls to catch a glimpse of him. Yosef became worthy of his good looks and all of this adulation when he had valiantly sought to protect his beautiful mother from Eisav.

Yosef additionally merited immunity to an ayin hara, said to hold no sway over all of his descendants — due to his having maintained his sense of modesty. He constantly averted his eyes from the girls who pursued him, neither acknowledging nor responding to the daughters of kings who would hurl their valuables at him. Osnat among them had on her person only one item of value — the engraved kimaya that she threw to Yosef. When Yosef saw the inscription attesting to her lineage, he took Osnat as a wife. She was thus divinely rewarded for her eyewitness testimony to the true unfolding of events in the house of Potiphar.

Fast-forward and who of Yaakov’s grandchildren should be held up as models for our children to emulate in the blessings conferred upon them to this very day? None other than Yosef’s children, Ephraim and Menashe. Kind of perplexing, considering their “stained” yichus. Their mother, after all, was the offspring of Shechem and she herself grew up in an Egyptian home, raised by Potiphar and his nefarious wife no less.

The Torah is apparently more impressed with one’s character than one’s yichus. Ephraim and Menashe happened to be the first set of brothers since the beginning of time to actually get along with one another. Even Yaakov’s motion to bless the younger before the elder stirred no feelings of envy or animosity in them; they remained ever loyal and connected to one another, each equally concerned for the other’s wellbeing. Neither haughtiness nor arrogance entered the picture, just a brotherly camaraderie and devotion — indeed a model of brotherhood.

Furthermore, whereas their cousins reaped the benefit of being raised in the Holy Land in a Jewish environment, Yosef’s children grew up in Mitzrayim with foreign influence all around them, and yet they adhered to their faith and managed to remain true to their heritage — as did their father in the face of severe provocation. This is our fervent wish for our children, grandchildren and succeeding generations: that they withstand the temptations they are ceaselessly bombarded with in golus.

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