Tammuz is the fourth month on the Jewish calendar, has 29 days, and is considered the saddest month on the Jewish calendar. Since the previous Hebrew month of Sivan has 30 days, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz is celebrated for two days: today (30 Sivan) and tomorrow (1 Tammuz).

According to Sefer Yetzirah—the Book of Formation—each month of the Jewish calendar has a corresponding letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the 12 tribes, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body. For Tammuz: 

  • The letter is chet
  • The Zodiac sign is Cancer, the sartan (crab)
  • The tribe is Reuben
  •  The sense is sight, and
  • The controlling limb is the right hand—the index finger in particular.

The 3rd of Tammuz (June 13 this year): At Joshua’s requests, G-d caused the sun and the moon to stop on the 3rd of Tammuz—which brought 36 hours of sunlight—in order to give Joshua and the conquering army of Israel time to exact vengeance on the Amorites (Joshua 10:12-13).

 The 17th of Tammuz (June 27 this year) is a minor fast day (fasting only from sunrise to sunset) to commemorate a number of tragedies which tradition says occurred that day:

  • Noah sent out a dove on the 17th of Tammuz to see if the flood waters had calmed and if the mountaintops were visible. But the bird returned, signaling that there was no dry place to rest.
  • Moses broke the first set of tablets upon finding the Israelites worshipping a Golden Calf.
  • The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE (Second Temple).

The Three Weeks (June 27-July 18 this year) is a sustained period of mourning over the destructions of the first and second Temples. It begins on the 17th of Tammuz and ends on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), the day of the destruction of each Temple. It is customary to refrain from holding weddings or other celebrations during this period.

Machlah, Noa, Choglah, Milcah, and Tirzah—The Daughters of Zelophehad. We read Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10- 30:1) during the month of Tammuz. When Zelophehad died without leaving male heirs to inherit his portion of the land of Canaan, his five daughters—Machlah, Noa, Choglah, Milcah, and Tirzah–declared that the land should not be lost to their family because there are no sons. Instead, they asserted: “Give us a holding (of land) among our father’s kinsman!” In the end, G-d approves of the daughters’ claim, commands that Zelophehad’s land be transferred to them, and institutes a new law: “If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall transfer it to his daughters. If he has no daughter, you shall assign his property to his brothers…”

Machlah, Noah, Choglah, Milcah, and Tirzah remind us of the many Jewish women past and present who have joined together to instigate, lead, and ultimately win battles for women’s rights. May their example inspire us to organize to fight injustice.

Kol Tuv ~ Rabbi Teri