Seizing the Moon’s Gifts, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz

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We store inside

Our feelings, thoughts

Distilled from lives lived joyfully.

The light pours in, it dances, floats

It settles in on wispy clouds

And warms all that it comes across.

 

Concurrently,

Through no made choice

Or thru an action, choshech comes,

The darkness spills.

It washes over, penetrates

In maze-like fashion

Seeps and spreads

And seemingly obliterates

The marshmallow light

Sweet warm and bright.

 

The inky weight of heavy times

Can wield its force

Weigh down our bones,

And wrestle hope

And glee until

They’re out of sight

And feel and reach.

 

As we, the women, celebrate

Our gift of ushering each new moon

We must, and can, uniquely

Face the whole of history

refelt

As is our sacred Jewish way.

 

Tammuz, when viewed from start

To last

Encompasses the whole of life

With blessings, courage, miracles

And falls from grace to deep despair.

We enter it rejoicing from

Receiving our most sacred gift

The Torah, work of light and truth

But stored in memory, women know,

We feel life’s flow through cycles,

Circles, watching each new moon evolve

We sense each season reignites

The past, the trials, tests and joys,

We pray, reread, retell

And fast, our deep, most humbling dig of all.

 

As Tammuz comes, with Av to follow

We see darkness looming near

Our inner vessels, holders, selves

Prepare to open and admit

Reflection on our darkest times

As one we face the broken tablets,

shattered lives, Temple burned.

We note on 16th of Tammuz

that Moses’ delayed descent

To bring our people sacred words,

wreaks havoc, shakes our people’s faith

Resulting in the golden calf.

So many yield, the urge too strong

(Though women, cool, unwavering,

Hold back their jewels, do not succumb

A midrash says their recognition

For not letting idols reign

Was to command they usher in

Rosh Chodesh, their unique domain.)

 

Another date, the third Tammuz

Saw battle raging in our land

As darkened skies approached, Yehoshua

took the reins, and pled his case

‘O Sun stand still over Gibeon’

And moon over the valley near

To conquer enemies we need

The light, and so Hashem obliged.

In chapter 10 of Joshua is written

That the sun stood still and later,

That before or since, there’s been no day

When heard the Lord the voice of man

And heeded him. A onetime wondrous

Happening, between a man and the divine.

 

One more of many dates to mark

In Tammuz, loss of one so wise

Revered, a guide, the Rebbe

Menachem Mendel Schneerson who

Among his many teachings said

Find and fulfill your life’s mission,

Answer evil’s force with love,

And reach your hand to every Jew.

Lord Rabbi Sacks once said his presence

Left you feeling humble, blessed.

So we remember and reflect

Let prayers and stories freely flow

And stir our souls, each her own way

As in the month we mark this day.

 

Our lives abound with moments linked

One to the next, though oft they meld

But some stand out, stand tests of time

And come alive to be re-faced.

My father’s Jewish learning path

Wove through the rituals we know

But his lament was that it lacked

The depths and heights our souls could reach

The learning rote, the meaning missed

Delicious soup but souls adrift.

The richness, wisdom there to plumb

eluded him, though still was built

a Jewish core, just, strong and kind.

Though rituals fell away, imbued

in him were values modeled clear

the Rebbe’s words enduring here.

 

.To delve and feel authentically

The joy, the wonder, and despair

Evoked through focused, earnest prayer

Or discourse, lively, challenging

Impassioned, Hillel, Shammai style,

Requires opening oneself

To be amazed, exposed, to see

And try on thinking differently.

Our thoughts diverge, we wrestle hard

face head=on rifts, maintain regard.

Oh, as we traverse life’s array

Of challenges, pursuits, travails

We face a choice, dive in, observe

Brave inky depths, soar joyfully,

Lead and be lead, explore the new

Fresh angles as they come in view.

Or slow to gliding, coast along

A taste of this, a test of that,

Engaging in the beauty of

A slower, smooth meandering.

 

Whether we dwell alone or joined

The opportunities arise

To set our sights, our hearts awake.

To changes renewed selves can make.

What offers us this opening? A symbol

Of our groundedness.

 

So with intention as our guide

We rest, reflect, and search the skies

Our spirits rise, the moon’s aglow,

It wanes and waxes, circling

The earth, reminding as it goes

That like it, we too move, renew

From full to halved and then at last

Behold! Luminous crescent comes.

A time for strength renewed to share

With others needing lifting up

to bring in light, and recommit 

ourselves to peace, time’s guide, this orb’s

our moment, women, to absorb.

About the Author
Julie Oscherwitz Grant, L.C.S.W. is a clinical social worker and writer living and working in the north suburbs of Chicago, where she is from. She has a bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a master's degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago. She practices psychotherapy with individuals and couples, seeing people with a range of presenting issues from relationship challenges to depression, anxiety, loss, post-traumatic stress disorder and loneliness, among others. Her emphasis is on the primacy of the therapeutic relationship as a tool for self-understanding, improving communication and feeling and living more vital and authentic lives. Before becoming a therapist, she worked as a reporter for a Chicago community newspaper. She and her husband of 28 years are the parents of three grown children, all of whom have lived in Israel for a year each. The family visits Israel frequently and hope to spend longer periods of time there in the future.
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