Monday, August 9, 2010

The Jewish (?) month of Tammuz

The Sumerian King List and the Jewish Connection (?):

After Lugalbanda comes Dumuzi, who was a “major figure in a Sumerian “holy-marriage rite” and “dying-god” myth. Kramer suggests that the Hebrew month of Tammuz is derived from the name of this King and it was this that the prophet Ezekiel (8: 14) was shocked at the women of Jerusalem who were still lamenting his death in the 6th century B.C. Furthermore, the 17th day of the month which bears his name and the lamenting and fasting which is characteristic of this day is also suggested to go back to Sumerian past! (Kramer, 1971, p. 45).

Whilst I have not found any evidence within the works of our sages to corroborate this suggestion regarding the 17th of Tammuz, the biblical commentaries on the aforementioned verse in Ezekiel (8: 14) highlight the significance of the 1st of Tammuz in relation to idolatrous practice. The verse states:

וַיָּבֵא אֹתִי אֶל פֶּתַח שַׁעַר בֵּית יְדוָד אֲשֶׁר אֶל הַצָּפוֹנָה וְהִנֵּה שָׁם הַנָּשִׁים ישְׁבוֹת מְבַכּוֹת אֶת הַתַּמּוּז

(Then He brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD'S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat the women weeping for Tammuz)

Rashi, , Radak, Malbim and Metzudos David all comment that Tammuz was the name of a type of idol which appeared to weep with tears due to the heat. Most notably, the Radak and the Malbim quote Maimonides’ elucidation of this practice which is to be found in the “Guide” (Section 3, Ch. 29 ). There Maimonides states:

“In that book the following story is also related (On the Nabatean Agriculture, translated by Ibn Wahshiya): One of the idolatrous prophets, named Tammuz, called upon the king to worship the seven planets and the twelve constellations of the Zodiac: whereupon the king killed him in a dreadful manner. The night of his death the images from all parts of the land came together in the temple of Babylon which was devoted to the image of the Sun, the great golden image. This image, which was suspended between heaven and earth, came down into the midst of the temple, and surrounded by all other images commenced to mourn for Tammuz, and to relate what had befallen him. All other images cried and mourned the whole night; at dawn they flew away and returned to their temples in every corner of the earth. Hence the regular custom arose for the women to weep, lament, mourn, and cry for Tammuz on the first day of the month of Tammuz.”( Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. 1904)

Maimonides warns that the fables found in this book are replete with absurdities of idolatrous practice and one should not be misled by them, however he does not deny that these practices were indeed performed.

That which needs to be researched further is whether the use of the Jewish month of Tammuz can actually be attributed to this idol, as Kramer suggests, a concept which would be quite strange, for why would the Jewish people give a name to a month which has such connotations anathema to Torah observance? How the Jewish months were named, who named them and whether they have any relationship with the cultures of their time can also be included in further investigation.

1 comment:

Zohar said...

See Da'at Miqra on Yehezqel

In the summer, the god Tammuz would disintegrate in the heat, and the worshippers would mourn him.

This knowledge was not preserved by our sages as it is not necessary for understanding the words of the prophets.

All of the "jewish" months are named after idols. The original jewish names are: "haHodesh HaRishon", etc, just like we use today in Modern Hebrew for days of the week, and do not use the loazi names (like English and Yiddish), which are themselves mostly names of gods and idols.