Joseph, the son of the patriarch
Jacob, was born in Charan (Mesopotamia) on the 1st of Tammuz of the year 2199 from creation (1562 BCE), the first child of Jacob's most beloved wife, Rachel, born after 7 childless years of marriage. He passed away on the same date 110 years later, in Egypt.
When Joseph was six years old, Jacob and his
family returned to the Holy Land, eventually settling in
Hebron. Though younger
than 10 of his 11 brothers, he was his father's favorite, and a great rivalry existed between him and his brothers, whose animosity toward him increased when he related two
dreams he had forecasting that he is destined to rule over them.
When Joseph was 17, he was
sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt; when he refused the advances of his master's wife, she had him placed in
prison, where he languished for 12 years. At age 30, he interpreted a pair of mysterious
dreams dreamt by Pharaoh, and was appointed viceroy of Egypt to oversee the gathering and storage of grain in preparation for the
seven years of famine that
Pharaoh's dreams had predicted. He married Asnat, and had two children, Menasseh and Ephraim.
The great famine brought his brothers to Egypt to purchase grain; after subjecting them to a series of trials to test their loyalty to each other and their remorse over what they had done to him, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, was reconciled with them, and settled his
father and entire
family -- 70 souls in all -- in Egypt.
Joseph passed away in Egypt on his 110th birthday. The first of his brothers to die, he transmitted to them the divine promise to Jacob that his children will be taken out of Egypt and restored to their homeland, and made them
promise to take his remains with them when they go.
Today is the second of the two Rosh Chodesh ("Head of the Month") days for the Hebrew month of "Tammuz" (when a month has 30 days, both the last day of the month and the first day of the following month serve as the following month's Rosh Chodesh).
Special portions are added to the daily prayers: Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited -- in its "partial" form -- following the Shacharit morning prayer, and the Yaaleh V'yavo prayer is added to the Amidah and to Grace After Meals; the additional Musaf prayer is said (when Rosh Chodesh is Shabbat, special additions are made to the Shabbat Musaf). Tachnun (confession of sins) and similar prayers are omitted.
Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh -- the month being the feminine aspect of the Jewish Calendar.