Tammuz/Av

The National Exhibition Hall of the Future


There's a building near the entrance to Jerusalem from the west, which is called the "National Exhibition Hall". All kinds of events take place there; concerts, lectures, political campaigns, and exhibitions. Whenever a company or organization needs a large, well located site in Jerusalem, this is the address. Conferences of medical personnel, of politicians, of rabbis and of computer experts from all over the world converge at the local hotels and hold their meetings at Jerusalem's "National Exhibition Hall".

In the last two years, some of the action has moved eastward. Near the King David Hotel, home of the British Command during the mandate, have been built two brand new five-star hotels. They overlook the old city of Jerusalem, with its famous stone wall and picturesque arches. In this area, one doesn't find as many professional conferences and exhibitions as at the nearby "National Exhibition Hall". Here are to be found more people who come to the city not only to enjoy its good cuisine and pleasant climate, but also to bask in its spiritual atmosphere.

Yet farther to the east, within the walls of the old city but on its eastern edge, is to be found a conference area of another sort entirely. Here, Jewish people are not even allowed (by Jewish law) to go at all. This is the site where, once upon a time, the entirely Jewish population of Israel would come for a spiritual exhibition. In fact, this was an exhibition which was unlimited: you could see whatever you wanted to see. As you came to see, so were you shown - everything was according to your spiritual level. If your level of learning and meditation had reached a certain height, that's what was revealed to you at this spiritual exhibition. This was the site of the holy Temple -the "Beit haMikdash" -in Hebrew.

We're used to showcases. For art, we go to museums and private collections. For music, we turn to concert-halls, and for sporting events to stadiums. We don't tend to think of spirituality as a quality which needs a showcase. In fact, just the opposite; spirituality is an intensely private and intimate experience between ourselves and the One Above. Its very nature is the opposite of a showy, glitzy exhibition. And yet the Beit haMikdash, which we hope to see rebuilt as soon as possible, was and is meant to be exactly that: a showplace for G-dliness.

When it was still standing, the Jews of Israel used to come to the holy Temple not just once, but three times a year. Three times a year, all land-owning Jews made the trek to the holy temple, in order to see and to be seen. They were commanded not to come empty-handed, but to bring with them offerings and tithes. But they didn't go away empty-handed, either. Whatever spiritual rejuvenation they received at that opportunity they then took home with them to their work and everyday life until the next occasion to come up to the Temple. What kind of Entity is it that reveals itself to every person according to his own level, and although appearing in a physical time and location, is nonetheless a spiritual experience? If it were only a spiritual entity, it would be limited to a particular level, available only to those who had reached that spiritual level. And it would not be revealed in a physical location even as holy as the Temple. Revelation to everyone according to his individual level, appearing within the confines of the physical creation, has to be coming from a place which transcends both the spiritual and the physical. It must be coming from Essence itself, beyond all categories and definitions, including the dichotomy of spirit and body. Like King Solomon said, "the heavens and the heavens" heavens can't contain Him, and how can this House (the holy Temple) contain Him?" but that's precisely the point. He who I above all categories and definitions can decide to reveal Himself wherever He so chooses, and at that time He chose to be revealed in the physical place and time of the Beit haMikdash.

What was seen in the Beit Hamikdash was revelation on a different level. The letters of the ten commandments, for example, engraved onto the stone tablets, could be read equally well from either side of the tablets, even though the letters were carved clear through from one side of the tablets to the other. The ark of the covenant took up no room whatsoever: though it had measurements of one or two cubits, when put into an area of ten by ten cubits, one who measured from any of its sides to the sides of the containing area always found a sum of ten cubits. It occupied space without taking up any room. Though it could be seen, it was not of physical measurements. This was a spiritual exhibition of G-dly proportions, the like of which hasn't been seen since. And it was that revelation which allowed the Jews in the time of the Temple to lead their lives on a different plane altogether. Unlike us, they knew what steps to take, how to run their lives, where they were going, not by making risky calculations, nor by asking people who as well meaning as they were, still didn't have the answers. They knew because they had access to the Holy Temple, to the priests whose job it was to answer their questions, and to the spiritual revelation which illuminated their lives.

At this time of year, the summer months of Tammuz and Av (approximately July- August), there are many tourists visiting Jerusalem. Needless to say, not all of them are coming for spiritual reasons. However, deep in their souls, that may be what they are looking for. It's not available for the time being in the same way that it was a couple of thousand years ago when the Temple was still standing. But if enough people want it, and enough people actively search for it, and place spirituality at the forefront of their priorities, then the greatest showcase of all times -the showcase of G-dliness- will be speedily rebuilt in our times.


Mystical Meditations. Tammuz and Av


The month of Tammuz is the month of eyesight. It is the month in which the Jewish spies went from the Sinai desert into the land of Israel, to see if it was worthly of being conquered and settled. They returned forty days later in the month of Av, which is the month of hearing, and let everyone hear their distorted and twisted report, causing the Jews to spend an extra forty years in the desert. If they would have gone simply as tourists, and returned while reporting that they saw with their own eyes, they would have fulfilled their duty. But when they got involved in analysis and expression of their own opinions, they got themselves and the entire nation in trouble. Proper seeing is associated with chochma, the ability to perceive that which is beyond us, while hearing is associated with the lower faculty of bina , or intellectual analysis. Hearing is not as direct an experience as seeing. It involves processing the direct perception of sight, in order to give it a "garment" which we can then use and refer to. When we rely more upon our intellect (hearing) to come to conclusions than upon what our direct experience (sight) tells us, we can get into trouble.

The tribes associated with these two months also allude to seeing and hearing. The tribe of Tammuz is Reuven , from the word "Reu", meaning "see" in the imperative. When her first son, Reuven, was born, Leah said, "G-d has seen my suffering" - When her second son was born, she said, "G-d has heard that I'm hated", and called him Shimon, from the word "Shma", meaning "hear, or listen". Thus, Shimon is the son associated with the month of Av.

The Hebrew letter associated with Tammuz is the eighth letter of the alphabet, the "chet". Eight represents that which is above nature and transcends it. It is the ability to "see" with the spiritual eye of the mind., the ability to apprehend that which is above us, and take it into our beings. The letter associated with Av , though, is the ninth letter of the alphabet, the "tet", with numerical value of nine. Tet is the letter of the soul, as it takes nine months for the embryo to form and for the soul to come down into the body. It's the letter of hidden good, as we see that every person has inside a hidden G-dly soul. The month of Av itself is the month of hidden good; although on the ninth of the month, the holy Temples were destroyed (and many other calamities occurred on this day throughout Jewish history), it is also said to be the day on which the Meshiach (Jewish messiah ) is born.

When Jacob our forefather wanted to bless his sons, the twelve tribes, and reveal to them the day of ultimate redemption (meshiach), he found that the revelation had been taken away from him. He looked at them and asked, "Perhaps there is "chet" (transgression ) among you? The word, "chet", in Hebrew means sin or transgression and is spelled with the two Hebrew letters of Tammuz and Av, "chet-tet" (plus a silent aleph). When seeing is taken in the wrong way, and distorted (misheard) as in the case of spies, the result is sin and transgression. If Jacob's spiritual revelation (eyesight) had been denied, he thought, it may have been because one of his sons might misconstrue (mishear) it. Therefore, Jacob asked if there was any sin or transgression (chet-tet) among the brothers, preventing the revelation of the date of redemption. They looked among all the names of the tribes, and did not find the letters "chet" and "tet" among their names, and knew that the tribes were all righteous and not accountable for their father's lack of revelation (from the Bnei Yissachar)

Finally, the body organ associated with Tammuz is the right hand. It's the hand which gives tzedaka, and does kind deeds for others. It represents the rectification of the sin of the spies. Although their transgression resulted in the Jews' failure to enter the land and work it physically, the right hand does physical good deeds -"g'milut hasadim"- which bring nearer the date of redemption. The organ of Av is the left kidney, and it also represents the rectification of the failure of the Jewish people during this month. The left kidney imparts the ability to sift through information and separate the true from the untrue and distorted. It imparts the ability to avoid bad reports and bad advice, and to hear only that which one should hear.

The rectification of both of these months of Tammuz and Av comes in the middle of the month of Av, when the moon is at its fullest, on the day of "tu b'Av". The Mishnah tells us that then the daughters of Jerusalem would go out to the fields and say to their prospective husbands, "Lift up your eyes and choose-", meaning that the brides would be both seen and heard by their prospective bridegrooms and encouraged to make the right choices for the right reasons. Thus, seeing and hearing would be used in the best and holiest way. The bride and groom are parables for the Jews and G-d, and on this day they are reconciled to each other.


Concept Corner

Three Steps on the Spiritual Elevator


The Zohar and Chassidic sources refer to three different kinds of spiritual influence impinging on a person's life. They correspond to a verse from the "Sh'ma" which tells us to love G-d with all our heart, all of our soul, and all our might. The heart is a vessel which contains blood which it pumps and distributes to the entire body. The person who meditated and ponders G-dliness and spirituality, develops a level of understanding and emotion, which then permeates the mind and heart with love and fear of G-d. this level of spiritual attainment is called "memalle kol olamim", or imminent illumination, on account of its permeating and fulfilling quality. It's based on what we can grasp and feel, just as the heart experiences and feels emotions.

The soul, though, includes other levels which go beyond feeling and understanding. The soul grasps G-dly emanations which transcend everyday experience, because it has levels which are not enclothed within the body. These transcendent levels of revelation are referred to by the Zohar as "sovev kol olamim" (surrounding or transcending illumination), since they are not within our everyday grasp, even though from time to time we intuit them. Thus, the verse above tells us that we should love G-d with all our "souls", since the soul includes levels of transcendnt, as well as immanent apprehension of G-dliness.

<>Finally, the verse tells us to love G-d with all of our "might". When a person throws himself into something totally, without thinking about risk or even about his own well-being, he is tapping the very essence of his being. He knows there is a job to be done, and his only interest is in getting the job done, regardless of he effect it has upon him. This is called "with all your might". Since the person is putting all of himself into the work, G-d responds in kind from above. He opens up doors for him from Above, that are not sufficiently describes as either spiritual or physical: they are manifestations of His Essence and go beyond His ability to manifest Himself on any particular spiritual level. Rather, they demonstrate His absolute control over the creation and ability to reveal Himself in any situation which He so chooses.

We see a similar spiritual progression in the three holy Temples: the two which were destroyed and the third to be speedily built. The purpose of the Temple was to make a connection between G-d and the lower (physical) world, in order to fulfill the Biblical injunction to make a place for Him to dwell in the physical world. The first was built by King Solomon by command of G-d. the dynamic was from above to below. The Jewish people in general were on the level of "tzadikkim", meaning that they had stayed on the "straight and narrow" path of immanent G-dliness, without straying (transgressing), and their service of G-d consisted of learning and meditation, drawing G-dliness down from above to below. The second Temple, however, was built at the command of Darius, a non-Jewish King of Persia, who permitted the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild the second Temple there. The predominant dynamic was from below to above. The Jews were like "ba'alei tshuva", people who regret their transgressions and wish to return to a life of holiness. Out of a strong desire to return to their source, their service of G-d focused on the transcendent aspects of G-dliness. In order to repent, they had to reach up to a higher source to "patch up" the disconnection which they had brought about earlier. Therefore their service went beyond the straight and narrow path, and included elements of atonement ("tshuva") and making up for the past. Like one who reties a broken rope, they made their connection with G-d even stronger. The second Temple was ultimately both larger and lasted longer than the first Temple. Nevertheless, it too was finally destroyed. When the dynamic is in one direction only, whether from above to below or the opposite, the result cannot be permanent.

The third Temple, hopefully to be built soon, will include both dynamics; that of the tzaddik from above to below, and that of the ba'al tshuva from below to above. The problem of the world today is that it still stands, as it has from the six days of Creation, in contradiction to revealed G-dliness. The purpose of the Temple, is to rectify this contradiction, but the rectification cannot be permanent until the world itself is ready, is a "vessel" for revealed G-dliness. Only when the physical world itself is ready to reveal G-dly spirituality can the third and final Temple be built. The dynamic will be a combination: it will be one part demand and effort from below to above (we have most of the plans for the physical Temple in our hands), and one part response from Above (it is said that the final Temple will actually descend from the heavens). When the process begins from Above, and the physical world isn't yet ready, the result is destruction, as we saw in the first Temple. When the initiative is from below, but without proper help from Above, the result is stronger, but still not permanent, as we saw by the second Temple. Only when help coming from Above coincides with a ready initiative from below, can the result last forever. May that happen soon!.


Full Moon Out Again

From Desolation Redemption (the fifteenth day of Av)


The middle of the month of Av brings us to an amazing holiday, about which the sages said (in tractate Ta'anis of the Talmud), that there are no holidays like it (it's called "tu b'Av", or the fifteenth day of Av), nor like Yom Kippur. When we look for reasons why, it's hard to find adequate explanations. The Kaballah (Pri Etz-Chaim) gives us the reason that then the moon is at its fullest. However, it's true of every Jewish month that the moon is at its fullest at the fifteenth of the month. Also, the very important holidays of Pesach and Sucot come out on the fifteenth of their months (Nissan and Tishrei, respectfully), and why should the full moon of Av be any more important than Pesach and Succot? The Talmud gives another reason, that at that time (fifteenth of Av), is when the power of the sun is broken, and the summer sun becomes easier to bear. But also this isn't understood: the Jewish months, including Av, correspond to the moon, not he sun, and why should the middle of a lunar month be indicated as the time when the sun weakens? Furthermore, why the big celebration: since when do we celebrate when the sun weakens?

In the time when the Temple was standing, there was revelation of G-d's infinite light into the sphera (G-dly emanation) of malchut. (Malchut is the tenth and last of the spherot. It represents G-d's reign or dominion over the creation, and serves the purpose of receiving from the upper nine spherot and transmitting to the creation). Then, the Zohar tells us, "the moon was at its fullest", there was revelation of G-dliness in our midst. This could be seen in the ten miracles which took place in the Temple. In general, there was revealed G-dliness in the Temple, and from there to the world at large. This has not been the case since the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the Jewish exile. Since the infinite G-dly light is no longer shining into malchut, we have no signs or clues from above, and spirituality doesn't illuminate the creation. There is only spiritual obfuscation and darkness. The differentiation between the time of the Temple and now is also reflected in our personal lives. In the time of the Temple, revealed spirituality illuminated the soul, and there was true intellectual and emotional appreciation of G-d. G-dly light shone into the soul, and penetrated the mind. This, in turn brought about true love, excitement, and nearness to G-d. Such love comes about only through intellectual grasp and understanding, because true love and nearness come about only when one understands the object of love. In the time of the Temple, people had a total grasp of spirituality, and therefore they could feel the positive elevation of G-dliness.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case during the long exile. Essence isn't available for us to access, and we're like sleepers when it comes to spirituality. Sleep is recognizable in the eyes, and we are like people who have closed eyes. Our approach to G-dliness is through the intellect alone, and we have no spiritual eyesight. We don't feel the presence of G-d so much, and whatever we do perceive is only through the garments of nature. In the time of the Temple, perception was abstract and direct; it had an immediate effect upon the emotions. Now, though, our perception is enclothed in all kinds of concrete parables and examples in order to help us understand, which are called by the kaballists the "outer realm of bina", or understanding. Only through these garments are we able to have some superficial grasp of G-dliness, and even then, the understanding must filter down to the heart before we achieve some emotional response. It's understood, then, that the emotional response is on a much lower level than during the time of the Temple. It's on the level of imagination, rather than direct experience. It's vague and elusive, rather than immediate and direct. For that reason, we're referred to as "dreamers" during this period of exile.

The revelation and spiritual ascent of the future, though, will be on account of and in proportion to the present descent of the exile. Despite all of the darkness and obfuscation of the exile, we continue to seek spirituality and serve G-d with meditation, prayer, study and mitzvot. The darkness of the exile brings out a tremendous thirst for G-dliness, and it is this yearning that will bring about the future revelation. And that's what the sages meant when they said that there were no holidays like the fifteenth day of Av. The Temples may have been destroyed (and other calamities befell the Jews throughout history) on the ninth of the month. But, there are ten levels of holiness, or sferot. In situations of spiritual darkness, the holiness can be so overwhelmed that the lowest of those levels (malchut, representing G-d's dominion over the creation), can become obscured, and G-d can seem not to be present at all in this world. But immediately thereafter, revelation of His presence is restored. The destruction bears within it the seeds of future redemption. Thus, while the Temple was set on fire on the ninth day of Av and burned on the tenth as well, a higher level of revelation began immediately afterward, from the tenth day on, and culminated on tu b'Av, the fifteenth day of the month. Though the moon is at its fullest on the fifteenth day of every month, the elevation is at its highest on the fifteenth of Av, since it follows the descent of the ninth of the month. In this sense, it is even a higher revelation than that of Succot and Pesach, which are not following any particular spiritual descent. And it is on this day that the sages said that the power of the sun is broken, because it is known that the nations of the world count the days according to the sun. Since the fifteenth day, when the moon is at its fullest, represents the highest spiritual ascent after descent, it is also the day on which the cycle of destruction and spiritual darkness, represented by the sun, is broken.

(slected portions translated and paraphrased from a chassidic discourse of the Rebbe R'Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch, said on Shabbat Nahamo, 1910)


Stories translated from S.Z.Zevin's Stories of the Chassidim


A Hasid from Poland who moved to Israel and made his residence in Jerusalem, was unable to get used to the way of life in Jerusalem, and decided to return to Poland. Before leaving, he went to the tzaddik, R'Simcha Bunim of Vorky (son of the tzaddik R'Menahem Mendel of Vorky), who was living at the time in Jerusalem, and told him about his reasons for leaving Jerusalem. The tzaddik groaned from the depth of his heart and said, "I feel very sorry for you. It would seem that you didn't find grace in the eyes of Jerusalem, because if you had, Jerusalem would have found grace in your eyes-"

The words of the tzaddik went deep into the heart of the Hasid, who the went back on his decision to leave Israel, and remained in Jerusalem.


The tzaddik, R' Rahphael of the town of Barshid, who was a student of R'Pinchas of Koretz, was accustomed to making peace between husbands and wives. Once, he came on Tisha b'Av (the fast day commemorating the destruction of both the first and second temples), to a particular house in order to make peace between particular people who were quarrelling there. They asked him, "Wouldn't it be possible to wait until after Tisha b'Av in order to do this?" He answered them, "The Temple was destroyed on account of senseless hatred, and therefore on the day of its destruction it is incumbent upon us to make peace."