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The Sun and Tammuz: Yosef vs Esav

Yosef’s story teaches us that even in the darkest times, Hashem’s guiding hand is at work, leading us toward redemption.

Dear Friends,

On Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 3475 years ago, Yosef, son of our forefather Yaakov and our Matriarch Rachel, was born. To understand the significance of this, we have to look at the rest of the month.

The 17th of Tammuz marks a pivotal moment in our history—Moshe Rabbeinu's breaking of the Tablets. This day should have been one of unparalleled joy, as it symbolized the completion of our covenant with Hashem. Instead, it became a day of sorrow, representing a fracture in our relationship with the Divine. However, this loss was not absolute. We had the opportunity to restore our connection through the building of the Mishkan, sincere teshuva, and heartfelt prayers.

Yet, just over a year later, on Tisha B'Av, we experienced another devastating blow. What should have been a day of triumph, heralding our entry into the Promised Land, was marred by the negative report of the spies, transforming it into a day of mourning. These two days of sorrow in Tammuz and Av are intricately linked, both representing moments when our faith and commitment were tested.

Circling back to Yosef HaTzadik, his life is a testament to resilience and hidden greatness. Despite facing tremendous challenges, his true strength and leadership emerged from these very trials. Yosef’s essence, and by extension, that of Moshiach ben Yosef, is characterized by the ability to transform adversity into growth and strength.

The months of Tammuz and Av are when the sun exerts its greatest power, symbolizing the peak of Esav’s influence and the forces of evil. Rashi teaches us that Yosef is the counterbalance to Esav. Just as the sun’s intensity can be overwhelming, so too can the challenges we face. Yet, it is in these very months that Yosef, the force opposing Esav, was born, reminding us that the potential for overcoming darkness is always present.

The breaking of the Tablets on the 17th of Tammuz was precipitated by the sin of the Golden Calf, an act deeply connected to Yosef, who is likened to an ox. This connection extends to the Red Heifer, which serves as atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf and purifies from the impurity of death. Esav, associated with the forces of evil and death, stands in stark contrast to Yosef, who embodies the power to purify and bring life.

Yosef’s greatness lay in his ability to harness the power of gevurah (strength) and self-control to overcome his desires and eradicate the forces of destruction. While Esav used strength to destroy, Yosef used it to build, forgive, and uplift. This is seen in Yosef’s interactions with his brothers, where he withheld his true identity until the right moment and ultimately forgave them, recognizing Hashem’s hand in his journey.

The days of Tammuz and Av, marked by distance and destruction, mirror Yosef’s initial harsh treatment of his brothers, which was ultimately for their benefit. Similarly, our perception of distance from Hashem during these months allows us to demonstrate our faith and loyalty, even when His presence seems hidden.

Yosef’s story teaches us that even in the darkest times, Hashem’s guiding hand is at work, leading us toward redemption. The heat and intensity of Tammuz and Av, representing the peak of physical and spiritual challenges, are precisely when Yosef’s spirit of resilience and hidden strength shines brightest.

Esav: Evil, death, and the golden calf.

Yosef: Purity, self-control, life, and the Red Heifer.

As we navigate these months, let us draw inspiration from Yosef’s example. Let us transform our trials into opportunities for growth, deepen our faith, and strive to reconnect with Hashem. May we merit to see the ultimate redemption and the fulfillment of our hopes and prayers.

Wishing you a meaningful and reflective Tammuz,

Sholom S. Mimran


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