Tammuz, the third day of the Jewish month of Tammuz, is the day the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn of blessed memory, was released from a life-threatening prison sentence by the Russian authorities in 5687 (1927). He was permitted to leave prison on condition that he serve three years of exile in the city of Kostrama.
While in Kostrama, nine days later on the 12th day of Tammuz, the Rebbe was notified that this sentence as well had been revoked and that he was now a free man. On the 13th of Tammuz he received the official documents attesting that he was indeed free.
As the day of his release from actual incarceration, Gimmel Tammuz understandably possesses many joyous aspects, greater even than the joy experienced on the days of the 12th and 13th of Tammuz:
The liberation of the 12th and 13th of Tammuz consisted of liberation from a state of exile, while Gimmel Tammuz consisted of the transformation from a state of confinement and incarceration to a condition of relative freedom. For when someone is jailed, he has absolutely no say over his actions; everything is in the hands of his jailers.
This was especially true in the case of the Previous Rebbe who at first was sentenced to death; even after that drastic sentence had been reduced, it was entirely possible for the sentence to be reinvoked as long as the Rebbe was in prison.
This being so, why are only the days of the 12th and 13th of Tammuz celebrated as a Yom Tov? Why didn't the Previous Rebbe establish Gimmel Tammuz as a Yom Tov as well?
The Previous Rebbe didn't establish Gimmel Tammuz as a Yom Tov since the entire aspect and being of a leader and shepherd of the Jewish people is that of providing for his generation - his own personal needs and affairs are of much lesser importance. Since Gimmel Tammuz was a personal liberation, i.e., his exile to Kostrama limited his ability to influence and provide for his generation, he therefore did not establish Gimmel Tammuz as a Yom Tov.
However, the bond of chassidim to a Rebbe and Nasi is such that it encompasses all aspects of the Rebbe's being; even his "personal" affairs relate to all the Jewish people. It is therefore proper for chassidim to celebrate Gimmel Tammuz as well.
Since, as the Baal Shem Tov teaches, everything takes place by individual Divine Providence, it follows that significant events that transpired on Gimmel Tammuz in the past, events that are reawakened and experienced annually, relate as well to the liberation of the Previous Rebbe on the third of Tammuz.
What prominent event took place on this day? On the third of Tammuz, Yehoshua stopped the sun in its orbit when he said, "Sun, stand still, [literally, "be silent,"] at Givon." Our Sages explain that Yehoshua commanded the sun - the angelic force that is the sun's spiritual source and counterpart - to cease singing G-d's praises, which in turn caused the sun's orbit, its "bowing" before the Divine Presence, to cease as well.
Yehoshua was able to do so by demonstrating the spiritual superiority of the songs sung by the Jewish people over the songs of the angels. Thus the Midrash states that when Yehoshua commanded the sun to cease its song, it responded: "You are commanding me to be silent. Who, then, will sing G-d's praises?" Yehoshua responded: "You keep silent; I will sing His praises."
The aspect of song is the element of ratzo and shov, arousal and withdrawal, advance and retreat - higher and lower notes on the musical scale - before G-dliness. This ratzo and shov results from one's love of G-d and awe of Him. Love of G-d causes the person to be roused with a desire to advance and draw closer to Him, while awe engenders a sense of withdrawal and retreat.
Both the love and awe that a person feels are a direct result of the person's comprehension of G-d's greatness; the more one understands G-dliness, the greater one's sense of love and awe of Him. This comprehension is achieved through studying the inner aspects of Torah, revealed in its most comprehensible form in Chassidus.
This, too, was the theme of the liberation of the Previous Rebbe: As a result of his occupying himself with strengthening Torah and spreading Judaism, including its innermost core - that of teaching and spreading forth the innermost part of Torah - the [Previous] Rebbe was able to prevail over the material world. Thus not only did corporeal matters - up to and including celestial bodies - not hinder his work, but to the contrary, they assisted him in his holy endeavors.
In his benevolence, the Rebbe drew down this self-same power to all Jews, that they too be able to prevail over the material and transform it into the spiritual.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, pp. 1314-1316.
- (Back to text) For a more detailed account of the arrest and liberation, see Likkutei Dibburim IV, secs. 34-37.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1051, fn. 18.
- (Back to text) See Lev David (from the Chida), ch. 29; Mishnah, conclusion of ch. 3 of Gittin.
- (Back to text) Yehoshua 10:12.
- (Back to text) Seder Olam Rabbah, ch. 11.
- (Back to text) See Bava Basra 25a.
- (Back to text) See Derech Mitzvosecha, p. 5a.
- (Back to text) Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua, Remez 22.
- (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:2.