Emor (Diaspora): A Month of Potential

The month of Iyar seems a little neglected, coming between two of the three Pilgrimages and having no festival of its own. Dvar Torah from World Bnei Akiva.

Rabbi Ilan Goldman,

Judaism


One of Judaism’s greatest foundations is the cycle of the Jewish calendar. This is a cycle on which the Rambam’s teachings suggest the very existence of Judaism depends on. The Ramchal, towards the end of Derech Hashem, teaches that each festival has a special light and influence which it brings upon the people, and it is at that point when we can reach the special potential that a festival brings with it.

We are familiar with the idea that Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are days in which we should be dedicating our service of Hashem to self reflection and to Teshuvah, repentance, and getting closer to Hashem, as it is then when these are more required and most achievable. The Ramchal teaches tha teach festival in the Jewish calendar has its special attribute and we should be dedicating our service of Hashem to that attribute.

Pesach is the time in which we focus on achieving a higher level of freedom, and Shavuot on receiving the Torah. The month in between the two is the month of Iyar. This month seems a little neglected, coming between two of the three Pilgrimages and having no festival of its own.

The Ramban on our Parasha gives Iyar a lot more credit than meets the eye. He describes the period between Pesach and Shavuot as a kind of Chol Hamoed, with Pesach being the first Chag,similar to Succot, and Shavuot being the last Chag, similar to Shmini Atzeret.

These days of the Omer, of which the majority fill the entire month of Iyar, are days in which the first generation of Am Yisrael ascended from the 49 gates of impurity in which they were, to the 49 gates of purity.

This is a period in which every year, again and again, we have the potential to elevate ourselves, and grow to immerse ourselves in purity, allowing us to be ready for the receiving of the Torah.


The period between Pesach and Shavuot can be seen as a kind of Chol Hamoed, with Pesach being the first Chag,similar to Succot, and Shavuot being the last Chag, similar to Shmini Atzeret.
The period of the Omer, however, is not celebrated as a Chol Hamoed, and the emphasis we give in these days does not regard the attribute of immersing in purity.

These days have become, in our time, days of mourning. Grief in Judaism is mostly regarding loss of potential. In the period of the Omer, we mourn the death of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 disciples who died in this time. Many attribute their death to the fact that they did not honor one another.

The mourning is regarding the loss of Torah scholars. The majority of the Oral Torah we have today came from Rabbi Akiva’s five new disciples, after the 24,000 had died. One cannot even begin to imagine the level of Torah knowledge, study and love we would have had, had all his disciples lived to teach his Torah. 

Another explanation of their death was that they died in the battlefield when Rabbi Akiva sent them to fight with the Bar Kochba rebellion. The lost potential here is not only their lives and the Torah they could have passed down, but also the potential of achieving independence.

This could have been Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day. Though the rebellion achieved three years of independence, the sad end was that hundreds of thousands died and 1,800 years of our bloodshed and exile began.

The fighters in this rebellion were the last to have genuine Gevura, (heroism). It took 1,800 years until a new generation emerged, a generation which had tremendous heroism both in the battle field and in the diplomacy field.

When the state of Israel was declared, it was the end of the ‘apologetic’ Jew and the beginning of a new era. It seems to be no coincidence that Lag Ba’Omer, which marks the heroism of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples, and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), which marks how our generation succeeded where they did not, all fall in Iyar.

The essence of the month, which has been hidden for solong, has now been revealed - it is a month of heroism, of Jewish pride and of fighting for what we believe in.

When we mourn in the Omer, we are mourning the loss of that potential, the end of that heroism and when we rejoice on Lag Ba’Omer, Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalaim, we are rejoicing in the heroism of our nation which is most reachable and attainable in the month of Iyar.





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