According to Sefer Yetzirah, the month of Iyar is the second of the 12 Jewish months. In the Bible, Iyar is called the month of Ziv, radiance.
Iyar is also commonly referred to as the month of (natural) healing because its name is an acronym for the words “Ani Hashem Rof’echa – I am God your Healer.”
Finally, the month of Iyar corresponds to the letter vav, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The word vav means a link, or connection, and it acts as the conjunctive “and,” in Hebrew. Iyar lies between the months of Nissan and Sivan and connects them together as one through the Counting of the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer), which begins on the 16th of Nissan (the second day of Pesach), continues through Iyar, and concludes on the 5th of Sivan, the day before Shavuot. Thus Iyar binds together Nissan, the month of the redemption (celebrated on Pesach), with Sivan, the month of the giving of the Torah (celebrated on Shavuot).
This is not only symbolic but also has a spiritual lesson for the Jewish people in all generations. The physical redemption of our people from slavery (in biblical times) or from persecution (in modern times) is only valid when it culminates in the spiritual redemption of the acceptance by the Jewish people of the Torah. The Jewish people can shine and heal only when they have accepted and follow the Torah.
Pesach is the time of year when a Jew most closely identifies with his people. He bonds with the Jewish people over space and time, reliving its tragedies and its triumphs. Two dates commemorating events in Israel’s modern history are celebrated in Iyar – Israel Independence Day on the 5th of Iyar and Jerusalem Day, the day Israel conquered Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, on the 28th of Iyar. (The 4th of Iyar, Yom HaZikaron, is marked in Israel as its national memorial day for fallen soldiers.)
The 14th of Iyar is known as the Second Pesach because it was on that date that Jews had a “second chance” at participating in the rituals of Pesach. This is necessary if a Jew had been unable to do so in Nissan because of ritual uncleanness or if they had been far away from home at that time. In particular, they were given the opportunity to bring a Pesach sacrifice and eat it with matzah and marror a month after the original holiday. This is very unusual because the rule generally followed is “avar zemano, bateil korbano – if the proper time for the sacrifice has passed, it can no longer be brought.” However, if one is presented with an opportunity to achieve something good in the world, he or she should be sure to take advantage of it before it is too late.
In our time we must always take advantage of the opportunity for a second chance to revive our identity as Jews in Eretz Yisrael, for without the identity of Israel as a Jewish state, we are truly at a spiritual and physical loss. In these troubled times, when the international community is intent on delegitimizing Israel as a Jewish state, we must do our utmost to revive the Jewish identity of all of our fellow Jews. This will ensure that the world acknowledges that the Jewish people are historically the indigenous people of the Land of Israel, that we have not come as foreigners to “occupy” the land.
But the realization of this goal depends on our ability to heal and to shine as proud Jews devoted to Judaism and the laws of the Torah. The Friends of Shas, recently established in the U.S., will strive to give life to this goal. The organization invites all Jews to strive together for the sake of strengthening am Yisrael.
On the first day of Iyar, King Solomon began constructing the First Temple (I Kings 6:1). On the same day hundreds of years later, Ezra began the construction of the Second Temple (Ezra 3:8).
Let us not fail to take advantage of the “second chance” we have been given to build a Jewish state and to uplift Jewish lives that will reflect the principles of the Torah – in their full ziv.
Rabbi Nissim Zeev, MK, is the founder of Shas, and founder and chairman of Friends of Shas International. You can e-mail your comments to him at email@example.com.