'A thread of chessed is stretched before dawn
'A thread of chessed is stretched before dawnFlash 90

May their memory be blessed.

“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.” (Leonora Carrington)

“I was asleep, but my heart was awake. A sound!…” (Song of Songs 5:2) Asleep and yet as in a dream, suddenly awake, I find myself immersed in unease and confusion. Our home is in a state of deep, gloomy, blackness. My insistent pressing on a switch does nothing to dispel the heavy darkness. A power failure? Unsure of the situation, unwilling to stay in a dark house of imaginary or perhaps real danger, I open the door and quickly exit.

At once, I am enwrapped in the soft enchantment of early dawn. The gray sky slowly brightening, as a touch of faint glow appears in the distance. Peach and pink hues of an awakening morn. As I stroll about in wonder, gray transforms into a lovely light blue, and the last touch of darkness is dispelled by morning light.

Upon reentering the house, I open the windows. Soft light gently illuminates the dark gloom. For I, within the shrouds of darkness, mistook the night for the day. With only a view of darkness before my eyes, mistook the inner for the outer reality.

Sometimes, in a situation of difficulty, anxious as to the future, we are filled with doubt, even gloom. If we but open the door and step out, beyond the bounds of our initial perception, what will we see? Will we find ourselves on an unfolding path towards the future, vaguely discernible at first, glowing in possibility with the brightening of dawn? Or will we find, that the darkness has accompanied us, as if a shadow, and stretched the night out to encompass the morn.

“For You light my candle; the Lord my God enlightens my darkness.”(Psalm 18:28)

We are now in the month of Tammuz, the month of misfortune for our people. The month in which occurs the fast day of 17th of Tammuz, the day of the sin of the golden calf, which resulted in the breaking of the first set of Tablets of the law given on Mt. Sinai.

“And I saw, and behold, you had sinned against the Lord, your God… So I gripped the two tablets, flung them away with both my hands, and smashed them before your eyes.” (Deut 9:16-17) The day on which the walls surrounding Jerusalem were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple.

This year, we are met with tragedy at the onset of the month of Tammuz, as we face the incomprehensible shock of pain and mourn the loss of life.

The word Tammuz in Aramaic means ‘heat’ or ‘warmth’, and the month of Tammuz begins the season of summer. The name Tammuz refers to a pagan god in the time of Mesopotamia. Rashi describes the weeping idol of Tammuz. Upon heating the idol from within, the eyes would shed tears of molten lead. (Rashi on Ezekiel 8:14)

One of the names used in the Bible for idols is simply, ‘sorrow’ (etsev). And indeed, sadness and tragedy are inherent to this month.

And yet, say the prophets, one day in the future the 17th of Tammuz will be a day of joy. “…The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” (Zecharia 8:19).

We pray that this will occur speedily in our lifetime. An end to pain and heartache. The Divinely blessed transformation of grief to joy, of strife to everlasting peace.

The word Tammuz is associated with sight, with the ability to see. (Sefer Yetzira)

Perhaps the ability to see the good which may sometimes be present in difficult times. Although at the time, almost impossible to envision. It is told that Rabbi Akiva, upon seeing a fox emerging from the ruins of the Second Temple did not weep, as did his disciples, but rather laughed. He explained “…now that Uriah’s prophecy has been realized (that foxes would inhabit the Temple ruins, ed.), it is certain that Zecharia’s prophecy will be realized.” (Makkot 24b)

Today, we find ourselves in a time of confusion. In sorrow and anguish as we mourn the inconceivable loss of our beloved, watch the continued strife in our blessed land.

And at the same time, we are blessed to witness the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecy “….elderly men and women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem…and the streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in them.” (Zecharia 8:4-5)

It is in the month of Tammuz that we are called upon to see the spiritual within the physical reality of our existence. Perhaps something in the darkness of the month of Tammuz, leads us to contemplate the Source of our redemption. Leads us to earnestly search for the light which may be found in the darkness.

In Life we all too often see a heart-wrenching mixture of despair and hope, grief and joy, darkness tinged with light. Intrinsic to the mystery of Creation.“And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)

Why was it necessary to separate the light from the darkness? Does not light, by its very nature, dispel the darkness? Apparently, both coexist.

“…God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness He called ‘night’. And there was evening and there was morning, One day.” (Genesis 1:5)

Both evening and morning are a blend. As a veil, a partition which protects us from the totality of light and the totality of darkness. In the first day of Creation, we see a progression. From evening, in which darkness is encroaching on a fading light, to morning, when bright light will illuminate night’s gloom. A progression from a lesser to a brighter light, which parallels the progression of Creation from chaos to order.

In the morning prayer we are reminded, that Creation is an ongoing process.

“He who in His goodness renews each day, constantly, the first act of Creation.” The force of life is continual. The Divine recreation of our world occurring at each moment in time.

And as the world is continuously created anew, so too we, as partners with God in Creation, have at each moment the possibility of transformation, of rebirth. We pray for guidance, so that our thoughts and actions may lead to a world of peace, a world of light, an end to darkness and pain. “Once you realize you deserve a bright future, letting go of your dark past is the best choice you will ever make.” (Roy T. Bennett, The Light of the Heart).

But how? From where will we find the strength? From where the wisdom? As dawn is breaking, we have before us the option of exiting from darkness into light, perhaps from confusion into a state of clarity. We are challenged each morning anew to face the reality in which we find ourselves, with courage and strength. We are offered the possibility of spiritual renewal.

Will we open the door?

In morning’s dawn, we see new opportunity, a new possibility for a change in direction, for growth. We look beyond ourselves, reach a bit farther than what we thought we were capable of. A view of vistas of which we were unaware lies before our eyes. A touch of the Divine glimmers. We struggle to understand.

“I went down to the grove of nut trees, to look at the green plants of the valley, to see if the grapevine was budding, whether the pomegranates were in bloom. Before I was aware, my soul set me among the chariots of my noble people.” (Song of Songs 6:11-12)

In the silence of the morning I hear the wind. A force at once in motion, at once still. Ruach, both spirit and wind. The breath of life, the force of life. The calm and yet moving force of a sultry summer morning. Fallen leaves are swirling in serenity in the warm summer breeze. Offering to us hope, in our time of darkness. Brown and green on a gray background, brightening in hue as I watch. As time, which is permanent, and yet, ever-changing. As our lives. At once ephemeral, at the same time eternal. We too, are a part of the dawn which is unfolding.

“Open for Me an opening as the eye of a needle, and I will open for you an opening through which will enter wagons and carriages…” (Midrash Rabbah on the Song of Songs)

May redemption come speedily, in our time.

Dr. Devorah Ungaris an American-born scientist and musician.who moved to Israel 30 years ago.