Iyar: Chodesh Tov

Some times are important on their own.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch
Iyar is always chaser, a month of only 29 days. This is because its essence is hidden. But there are generations in which small sparks of the signs of Geulah (Redemption) begin to make themselves clear. This is the hechsher Geulah, the first appearances of Ziv (another name for Iyar), reflections of the light of Geulah.

There are no holidays in Iyar that merited the designation Yom Tov with issur melacha, but what hides beneath the surface of this month, and will be revealed, is a mighty reflection (Ziv) that will someday blaze with such a great light that Iyar will once again be malei, a full month of 30 days. For in the year of the Exodus, 2448, Am Yisrael did make an Iyar of 30 days, because of the illumination of its content as a'compound', consisting of the elements of Pesach and Shavuot: Pesach with its freeing of the body of the Nation of Israel, and Shavuot with the Sinaitic appearance of the soul within that body. The purpose of all this is the ultimate revelation of the essential Oneness, the unity of these elements - Israel and Torah. This will come with tikun olam b'malchut Sha-dai, the final Redemption.

For now, we, with our limited ability to absorb the light of the One, suffice with discrete way-stations: Yom Ha'atzmaut, with the acquisition of the freedom of the nation Israel, it being another Exodus from Egypt; and Yom Yerushalayim, the appearance of kedushah (holiness) and Torah. Atzmaut and Atzmiyut (freedom and distinctiveness). Freedom whose purpose is for us to clarify our distinct character, Israel. And so we have Yom Ha'atzmaut close to zman cheruteinu, Pesach, and Yom Yerushalayim just before Shavuot.

The above is from Rabbi Zvi Yisrael Tau's "On the Nature of the Month of Iyar"and appears in Ki Ayin B'ayin Yir'u (pages 108-121). He quotes Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook on the nature of time, in order to explain why some months are chaser, and some malei. Some times are important on their own; others are way-stations (emtzai) on the path to the future. There are times when, because of their own momentous importance, we want to tarry longer in the present, and so we lengthen the period. Thus, we add to time to Shabbat (30 years ago, I watched my mother's uncle, Rabbi Yitzchak Eizekel Langner of Toronto, make Havdalah on Tuesday), and add a thirtieth day to some months, like Nissan and Sivan. For the last 3,300 years, though, Iyar has always been chaser, of only 29 days, in our longing to more quickly get to "the purpose", the heights of Sinai, reached on Shavuot.

But in the year 2448, the Jews made an Iyar malei, of 30 days. Iyar then had a tochen atzmi, a content of its own.
In the year 2448, the Jews made an Iyar malei, of 30 days.
Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook explains this with two examples. One is a Chasidishe-vort from Chabad that every Jewish holiday is a point in time which expresses the totality of time, and of all holidays. Thus, Pesach is our national birthday, our time of Freedom; but this prat in time is an expression of kol, of the totality of all of time and existence, for all of Torah (the blueprint of Creation) is "a remembrance of the Exodus." Shavuot, as the time of Matan Torah on Sinai, expresses this kol of the Divine thought underlying Existence. Iyar, 2448, was a "compound -time", murkav (a Pesach-Shavuot), for the Divine Will expressed in Torah (Shavuot) can be absorbed only by Israel, which comes into being on Pesach.

Another example: Israel and Torah are one, and Rabbi Tau explains that without Torah there is no Israel, and without Israel there is no Torah. Moreover, and because of this, the Maharal (Tiferet Yisrael, chap. 69, page 216) explains that, in essence, Pesach and Shavuot are really one holiday (with one long Chol HaMoed in between, known as the Sefirat HaOmer period). In Divine thought, Israel-Torah and Pesach-Shavuot are one (as are all the details, peratim, of existence. Rabbi Matis Weinberg explains that during the Omer we are to contemplate this fact (see his treatise on Sefirat HaOmer, Midat Hayom), but in our limited world they must appear as separate entities, peratim of reflected light (Ziv), so as not to confuse us with a single entity which we could not appreciate.

Therefore, we have a separate Yom Ha'Atzmaut and a separate Yom Yerushalayim. But in the year 2448, the Oneness vivifying all these details was so vivid, that the Jews made the month of Iyar malei.

Rabbi Kook did not make up his own Torah, but with eyes full of emunah (belief) he saw in our times the holy inner content of salvation and Redemption. His ideas can be seen in many other treatments of the Omer period. The Slonimer Rebbe (Netivot Shalom, Vayikra, page 111) notes that for purposes of the Omer count, Pesach is referred to as Shabbos (Vayikra 23:15). This is because Pesach represents a gift, the gift of freedom, much as Shabbos is a Divine gift from upper realms of holiness. The Omer period is sheva Shabbatot because it starts with Shabbos, the Divine gift of the Exodus, and ends with Shabbos, the holiness of Shavuot and its gift of Torah; in between, we perfect ourselves. And as we count the Omer, we say two things: kdei sheyit'haru nafshot amcha Yisrael mizuhamatam; this is the Pesach-like aspect of Iyar, exiting the impurity of Egypt. We then say: v'etaher bikdusha shel ma'ala... ulkadshenu bikdushatcha _ha'elyona, which corresponds to our slow 49-day ascent to the heights of Sinai. Each day of Iyar (with its mida) is a way-station between the two holidays, and also a compound (chesed she'bigvura, etc.) of these midot-days.

It is also illuminating to see that the Bnei Yissaschar thinks of Iyar as a month of national beginnings. He mentions that the well of Miriam and the Manna (given in the merit of Moses) first made their appearances during Iyar, the month during which Joshua (of the tribe of Yosef, whose symbol, the bull, is found in Iyar's astrological sign, Taurus) had the first of history's battles with Amalek, and during which King Solomon began to build the Temple.

The Manna is the item in which it is easiest to see the connection to the above ideas of Iyar. The Gemara Yuma (75a-76a) discusses the Manna. "The Manna had the taste of l'shad hashamen (Bamidbar 11:8)," - of dough kneaded in oil. Rabbi Abahu says this means shad, "breast": one who ate Manna tasted any food that he thought of, just like a mother eats many different foods, and produces from it milk; the baby (as the Ben Ish Chai explains) has a refined sense of taste, and tastes all these foods in the one entity of milk. This "oneness" of the milk is akin to the One thought of the Almighty, that in Creation expresses itself here as Yisrael, there as Torah, here as Pesach, there as Shavuot. One who sees only superficially sees a multitude of details; but the discerning soul sees the Divine thought in even the darkness of exile, and yet still discerns the details.

On Yuma 76a, the Gemara says that Yehoshua received a portion of Manna equal to that of all of the rest of Israel. The Ben Ish Chai explains that the Gemara does not deal with the physical amount of Manna that Yehoshua got. But lo nitna Torah elah l'ochlei haMahn," for the Manna enclosed a spiritual factor that made Israel wiser in Torah. Yehoshua's Manna contained a spiritual power (koach ruchani) of great quality, corresponding to that of every Israelite. This not only allowed Joshua to later replace Moshe Rabbeinu as Torah-teacher of Israel, but it enabled
The job of those with emunat iteinu, "the belief for our times," is to "see through the bitterness and the darkness."
him to be king. For the kingdom of Israel must be an emergent phenomenon, arising from all the individual Jews (peratim) and being their embodiment (a klal connected to and responsive to every prat) and organizing factor (melech; Rabbi Matis Weinberg, Midot Hayom). It was this ruchani relationship that allowed Yehoshua to rule. This is of a kind with Rabbi Kook's tochen elyon, Divine thought, that runs through Iyar, expressed here as Yom Ha'atzmaut, there as Pesach sheni, here as Lag Ba'Omer, there as Yom Yerushalayim.

Separate details these days may be, and those who look superficially may see only chol, normal weekdays. They may also see only chol and chilonim in Yom Ha'atzmaut and Medinat Yisrael, says Rabbi Tau. But the Geulah, when the Almighty "returns the exiles to Zion, is like a dream," says Psalms 126:1, and the Talmud (Berachot 55a) says there is no dream, however prophetic it may be, without some nonsense. The job of those with emunat iteinu, "the belief for our times," is to "see through the bitterness and the darkness, to the Divine thought running through these events of our times, to the true intent of the dream; to grab the eternal, true basics of that dream, to work with G-d to raise emunah and Torah among the Jews, and turn the darkness into a light that will burn brighter and brighter, davka within the darkness." This is why we will read Psalm 107 this Wednesday night, concluding (verse 42), "Whoever is wise let him note these things, and comprehend the kindnesses of HaShem.'"

Rabbi Tau concludes with the words of Rabbi Kook: "This Redemption unites the teva with the nes (natural with the miraculous), the outer aspects of Life with their essences. The Redemption is full of hidden miracles, and there will yet appear to us open ones (nissim geluyim)."

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