Have you done an “idolatry check” lately? Tammuz is the perfect time to do so.
“I’m a monotheist!” you might exclaim. But before you get too defensive hear me out. Being monotheist is no guarantee that you aren’t involved in idolatry.
Do you know what caused the rabbinical establishment and top Israeli leaders to immediately give control of the Temple Mount back to the Arabs in 1967, right after “liberating” the Mount? It’s the same thing that caused the spies to return with a negative report after scoping out The Land. Idolatry.
Idolatry comes in many forms and fashions. Sure, it’s easy to point at people who believe and worship forms of so-called deities that they think share duality with Hashem. But a more subtle form of idolatry is to believe that anyone or anything has power outside of Hashem.
Many Jews, and people who have attached themselves to the G-d of the Jews, proclaim the Shema everyday. “Hear, O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One.” Why do people cover their eyes when saying this? It is a reminder that true reality is much different than what we see with our physical eyes. If a person is not careful and extremely consciousness of the fact that Hashem is the only Reality, it is easy to forget that He is. Circumstances can play tricks on our minds, or more importantly, with our beliefs. So while we maintain that Hashem is One, our actions can sometimes, G-d forbid, contradict that belief.
It’s safe to assume that the rabbinical establishment today, and in 1967, were diligent about proclaiming the Oneness of Hashem. Yet, their actions regarding the beloved and holy site of the Temple Mount, the place that Hashem chose for His Abode, were and continue to be diametrically opposed to the belief in Hashem’s Oneness.
In 2009, the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv emphasized that Jews should not visit the Temple Mount because their visits could provoke bloodshed. "I have declared this in the past, and I repeat once again my statement that beyond the halachic aspect, it is also a kind of provocation of the world's nations that could lead to bloodshed, and this would be one sin leading to another.”
The esteemed rabbi was not looking through the lens of Hashem's Oneness. Isaiah 2:2 described the true reality of Jews ascending the Temple Mount. Isaiah viewed the world through the scope of Hashem’s Oneness. If Hashem is the only reality, then doesn’t it reason that His desires and opinions are the only ones that matter. Isaiah saw the nations streaming to the Temple Mount, hungry to hear the words of Torah. Isaiah did not shy away from the reality of Hashem’s desires, nor did he give a tepid prophecy in hopes of not offending the nations.
In an Arutz Sheva interview, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel bemoaned the fact that the Chief Rabbinate in Israel instructed Moshe Dayan to immediately give control of the Temple Mount back to the Arabs. “He handed over the key [to the Temple Mount], because he was the one who held it, but someone persuaded him to do this," Rabbi Ariel said.
Rabbi Ariel learned this from a Bamishpacha magazine article, and then verified the truth of the claim with hareidi former Knesset member Rabbi Menachem Porush, who was quoted in the article. Rabbi Ariel stated, "According to what he [Porush] said, the greatest hareidi rabbis, led by Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, went to Dayan and told him to tell Levi Eshkol to give the Arabs the Temple Mount since, 'The People of Israel have no interest in the Temple Mount.' They also said the UN should be notified that we have no interest in the Temple Mount."
The esteemed rabbinical establishment did not view the incredible gift of sovereignty of the Temple Mount through the lens of Hashem’s Oneness. They saw the Temple Mount as the spies saw all of The Land. Their view lent to the notion that there is power outside of Hashem. Their view was idolatrous.
In a recent Israel National News article, Dr. Tuvia Brodie had an unexpected conversation with a refrigerator repairman. The older repairman was a Jew who had immigrated to Israel from Tunisia. The repairman quickly shot down Dr. Brodie’s view of who controls the land of Israel. As Dr. Brodie described:
I asked the repairman about Israel’s leadership surrendering
land. He was unimpressed.
land. He was unimpressed.
"This is not their land," he said.
I objected, "They control the land."
He was still unimpressed.
"Never forget," he replied, "This land belongs only to G-d.”
Quickly realigning his thoughts with that of the repairman, Dr. Brodie concluded, “His point was clear: who cares if Israel has anti-land leaders? They are nothings. They own nothing. G-d owns everything—and Israel is His alone.”
If only the rabbinical establishment and political leaders of Israel were as wise as the repairman. If only they saw with such clarity, rather than through eyes of idolatry; eyes that ascribe power, and thus duel ownership of the Land, to any other entity than Hashem.
Centuries ago Israel was guilty of idolatry that involved a god called Tammuz. It is interesting that the sages of Israel allowed a month of the Hebrew calendar to be named after this god. Perhaps part of the sages’ reasoning was as a perpetual reminder that as long as Jews, or any people for that matter, live in the realms of this physical world, they are part of an on-going fight against idolatry guised as duality. Everyday we are presented a “Tammuz” as it were. We are presented with the opportunity to see the world with our eyes wide open to the only Reality – Hashem. Or we can see the world with our eyes wide open to idolatry – reacting to the idea and illusion that there are any other forces outside of Hashem.
May this month of Tammuz be a time of tikkun for individuals on a personal level, but also for the rabbinical establishment and political leaders of Israel to open their eyes to the Oneness of Hashem. May they no longer make decisions based on the illusion that there are any other powers outside of Hashem. May they ascend to the Temple Mount themselves, to the Gateway to the Heavens, and once and for all repent for eyes that focus on any kind of illusional forces guised as opponents of Israel.
In Psalm 16 David stated, “Hashem is my allotted portion and my share, You guide my destiny.” To believe anything else is idolatrous.
On a personal level you may need to remind yourself that no one or no circumstance guides your destiny other than Hashem. When your plans aren’t “working out,” when the economy continues to “go south,” when the doctor's report says “there’s no hope,” remind yourself that those are all illusions. And don’t weep over those illusions as the people of Israel wept over the illusion of Tammuz so long ago. Instead remind yourself as often as possible that Hashem and Hashem alone guides your destiny.
On a nationalistic level, join me in praying for the nation of Israel and its leaders that they will unify around the belief that Hashem is their destiny. Period. May a beautiful tikkun happen during this month of Tammuz. And may the nation of Israel arise from the idolatrous beliefs that lead to continual bowing and cowering before the nations. “Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem shines upon you. For, behold darkness may cover the earth and a thick cloud may cover the nations, but upon you, Israel, Hashem will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine,” Isaiah 60:1-3.
What an auspicious time for Israel to arise and shine. To once and for all arise from bowing before Tammuz and sweep the illusions of idolatry into the dust bins of history. And instead, replace it with an Abode for Hashem’s Oneness, the Holy Temple. Hear, O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd He is One. Open up your heart in a deeper way each time you say the Shema this month, to the reality of Hashem’s Oneness. And may Hashem hear and respond to the intention of our declaration as we call out to all of Israel to hear and to see that Hashem is One; He is all there is.