Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In order to answer these questions, let’s take a detour and explore a different aspect of the month. It is well known that each month is aligned with one of the tribes of Israel, with Tammuz being aligned with Reuven. What is Reuven all about? What are his essential and unique qualities? If we can answer this question then perhaps everything will be resolved.

Let’s take a look at the parsha in which Reuven was named. We know that a name describes one’s essence. “Leah conceived and bore a son, and she [prophetically] called his name Reuven” (Bereishis 29:32). Rashi explains that Reuven is a contraction of the words ‘reu’ (look and see) and ‘ven’ (the difference between). Rashi elucidates by quoting the Gemara in Brachos 7b. “Look at the difference between my son and my father in law’s son Esau. Esau willingly sold his rights of the firstborn to Yaakov and yet he still hated Yaakov for it, while [I know prophetically that] Reuven will lose his rights of the firstborn and it will be given against his will to Yosef and yet Reuven will not harbor any ill will towards Yosef as a result.”

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This fascinating Rashi is describing the essence of Reuven and explaining what he is all about. What is this middah, and why is it so special? The answer is that people have a natural but negative tendency to always want to be ahead of their peers. We like to believe that we are better than, and ahead of, anyone else. The yetzer hara drives us to want to push everyone else beneath us because it is too painful to imagine a reality in which somebody is doing better than us. In reality, this is a disgusting trait which we need to do our utmost to uproot. Is G-d not all-powerful? Is He not loving and benevolent? Can’t He provide you with every single one of your needs and wants while simultaneously doing the same for your neighbor? Why do you have to be on top and make your friend the deficient one? This tendency is illogical and evil, and yet it thumps within us always.

Reuven, being one of the 12 sons of Yaakov, was one of the greatest people that ever lived. Astonishingly, he managed to grow beyond this evil tendency and conquer his baser self. While Esau resented Yaakov his entire life for the firstborn which he sold of his own free will, Reuven accepted the place in life that Hashem decided was best for Him and was thereby able to maintain a loving and caring relationship with his younger brother who was now his superior.

Now we can understand why it was so abominable to cause the Tammuz to cry. Even worse perhaps than worshipping the deity was the fact that those people were restructuring their relationship with the ‘Divine’ to make the god the needy and deficient one, while they were the benevolent ones. They wanted the Tammuz to cry so they could step in and be the kindly superordinate that has the ability to fill all the subordinate’s needs. This is an abominable trait. Why can’t we be more like Reuven and accept where we are in life because G-d loves us and knows about what we truly need much more than we will ever know? This is the avodah of Tammuz. Have an accomplishing month.

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