Moon Over Maui

A Jewish Mystical Journey through the Year

Seeing in Tammuz Is the Gateway to the High Holidays

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 26•11

The waning crescent Tammuz moon hangs in the sky. It just tipped over into a three week period of time (which includes two weeks of the next moon cycle Av) that is filled with introspection, assessment, and yearning. It’s July, for goodness sake, yet these final phases of the Tammuz moon indicate the very beginning of the Jewish High Holidays (slated to begin this year in late September.) These full hot days of summer are early preparation for the Jewish High Holidays. It’s hard to believe!

Waning Cresent Tammuz Moon, Wailea, Maui.

Ever since moving to the Bay Area nearly 14 years ago, the High Holidays have arrived earlier and earlier. When I was a girl, we went to temple on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Two days, that was it. Kids my age sat together in three designated side rows to the left of the pulpit. We whispered and flirted under the monotonous hum of prayers we knew by heart. Thigh-touching-thigh, we distractedly flipped through the prayer book pages, counted the colorful discs bobby-pinned onto men’s heads, and fell into shared yet silent girlhood hilarity.

The two days didn’t pass quickly, but they certainly didn’t linger either. Now, the first inner thoughts of the High Holidays arrive in summertime and don’t fully conclude until midwinter. Half of every year—six month’s, no joking—is devoted in some way to preparing, repenting, reviewing, inquiring, making amends, planning, assessing, and envisioning the year ending and the one about to begin.

Tammuz As a Gateway (Wailea, Maui.)

The first time I read Rabbi Alan Lew’s, ZT”L, book This Is Completely Real and You Are Not Prepared, I learned that the entire month of Av (August) also is part of the High Holiday journey. The year before, I had fallen in love with the Elul moon (in September) and learned it was a beloved month of spiritual accounting that brings us closer to the Divine. In between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the ten Days of Awe, each filled with deep meaning and fecund for spiritual inquiry. Then Sukkot a week after that. (I was shocked a few years ago to find myself building my own sukkah for the week-long observance of eating outside with friends and strangers. I loved it!) Then Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah got tagged on after that. (Whew, the official end, I thought.) But no! As a young Hebrew School student I learned that the book of life closes on Yom Kippur, but it isn’t actually sealed until a good two moons later, just after Chanukah (December).

And now I learn that smack in the middle of days filled with camps and beaches, swimming pools and ice cream cones, the High Holiday journey begins even earlier, turning our focus inward during the moon of Tammuz.

Lavender Wafts under the Healing of Tammuz  (Ali’i Lavendar Fields, Kula, Maui.)

The area of deep healing for Tammuz is inner seeing. Habitually, we focus our attention outward and see through a lens tinted by our life experiences. Without annual adjustment, our vision begins to warp into projections that see only what we most want to feel or avoid. For example, instead of understanding that my daughter’s perseverance to tolerate a yard full of unfamiliar new school mates is buoying her to new heights of social interaction, I freefall into my own childhood days and see her suffering in lonely isolation and discrimination.

It is the gift of Tammuz to wipe the shmootz from my glasses and to see clearly what is before me. To make the time and refresh my vision. To blink into reality and see that really, my husbands temper isn’t caused by me, my dog isn’t as decrepit as I often imagine, beauty and awe stand side-by-side with violence and death, my son is excited and joyous more than he is hyperactive, my professional life is resurrecting itself not suffocating.

Seeing Is the Healing Gift of Tammuz. (Water fountain, Wailuku, Maui.)

Curative introspection comes from relearning to truly see without projection or fear, longing or fantasy. Make the time to examine your vision. Be brave enough to take off the lenses of your past, wipe them clean, and open yourself to the beauty and dirt that surrounds you.

 

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for these beautiful teachings on the new moon of Tamuz!

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