Tammuz: Lesson of Reuben

binocular view
Clear your vision in Tammuz – Photo by Joelk75 CCA Permissions

Tammuz generally falls during the months of June and July.
Reuben (רְאוּבֵן) is the first born of Jacob and Leah is the tribe associated with the month of Tammuz (תָּמוּז).  His name, Reuben is directly related to the sense of sight, which is considered to be the sense of the month of Tammuz.   When Reuben was born, Leah exclaimed, “Because the LORD hath looked (רָאָה) upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” (Gen 29:32)


Reuben has three very stand-out memorable moments in the Torah.  Possibly more, but three that jump right to mind for me.  First, is the the scene with mandrakes in Gen 30 where Rachel begs Leah to give her the mandrakes (דוּדָאִים) Reuben has harvested, with this Leah “buys” another night with Jacob and conceives Issachar.  The second is Reuben’s role in the story of Joseph, where in Genesis 37 he suggests the brothers shouldn’t kill Joseph — just throw him into a pit and say he died.  Finally, Rebuen seems to have had an affair with Bilhah, one of his father’s wives.  Needless to say this doesn’t go over so well with Jacob.

The question of Reuben is “what do you see.”  When you look, do you see?  I think Reuben, who was the oldest, but is not then or historically the leader of the tribes had a failure of vision.  It got me thinking about the concept of “perceptual blindness.”  I had just heard a story about a police officer who ran right past someone being beaten and claimed he didn’t see it.

When you look, do you truly see?  Do you understand what biases you have that filter your perceptions?  Do you know what’s distracting you and causing you to miss things you don’t realize?  So many of our relationships are based on what we perceive, so when we miss subtle — or unsubtle — clues to what is really happening our relationships can change and it seems shocking.  I think this is really the story of Reuben returning to the pit and finding Joseph gone (Gen 37:20-30).  He only saw what he wanted to when he suggested, “let’s throw him in the pit.”

As the summer heats up, be sure you don’t let the heat cloud your vision.


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