Spring has finally arrived. It didn’t quite make it in Nissan this year when the rain and the snow refused to disappear. But with the coming of Iyar, the skies turned blue, the land turned green and flowers burst into color. And now that Pesach is over, women – those harbingers of Geulah –
have left their bonds behind and are finally free. No more cleaning, washing, scrubbing, dusting, sweeping or looking for dirt for at least another… well, for as long as we can put it off and get away with it! There will be time enough to look for dust in Tammuz when the desert winds start blowing sand our way again. Meanwhile, aside from the most basic, elementary, (inescapable!) household duties, we have earned our freedom (for at least a month!) and are certified (at least temporarily) Emancipated Women.
What shall I do with my newfound freedom? I’d love to say, nothing! But Iyar is a busy and demanding month. It is a month full of Days. Important ones. Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Yom Yerushalyim. New dates on our old and hallowed calendar. Days that demand thought, understanding, and deep appreciation. Days which also demand much sensitivity and tolerance because they are not universally accepted, understood or appreciated by many of G-d’s children. Days which all fall during Sefirat HaOmer when, Chazal tell us, the students of Rabi Akiva died because they were not sensitive and tolerant enough of each other.
These days are therefore our very own contemporary challenge when Jews of all stripes and colors and opinions (of which we have many!) must be accepting, understanding, respectful and loving to each other. It will make no difference to our Father in Heaven if I prove myself right and my neighbor wrong in regards to these new days in Iyar; He Himself will prove the point one way or the other. It will, however, make an earth-shattering difference if we fight, argue, spread hatred and engage in other unseemly activities trying to prove “our” way. Twenty-four thousand students of Torah once perished for their surety; that was enough. History is guided and written by the Hand of G-d. In the end, His Will will be done.
Meanwhile, what will we – our family, our community – do? Well, we will celebrate. We will say Hallel and express our unending thanks to the Creator of the World for having brought us back, after two thousand years, to His Holy Land. For having miraculously guided this Land and its stiff necked people. For having helped us to succeed, flourish, save and embrace millions of our brethren – and ourselves! – from a world of enemies who are stronger, richer, larger and inspired by eternal hatred of Am Yisrael. For having brought us safely and miraculously through war after war against impossible odds. For having returned the City of Jerusalem and vast parts of Biblical Eretz Yisrael to the people of Israel. For having helped us fill the land with cities, villages, settlements.
For all of that, we humbly thank You. Surrounded by wolves, G-d’s lambs are Baruch Hashem alive, vibrant, growing, reproducing and creating new spiritual and material worlds. In Israel, every day is a day for Hallel and thanksgiving.
So even though many of our brethren are not yet here, we invite you to join us. You too have a claim to this holy real estate. You too belong, not among the Nations of the World, but here, with your own people, in G-d’s own land. You too can live your lives and create new worlds here – not in the lands of strangers. Eretz Yisrael is Eretz HaChayim – the Land of Life. It was not created as a burial place for Jews; it is a place for them to live and sanctify life.
The world is on the edge – or in the midst – of great changes. They do not look promising, especially for the Jewish people. We are not prophets, but one cannot help but wonder if perhaps this is G-d’s way of “speaking” to us, if only we would listen. The new “days” in Iyar declare that new times have arrived. Times that proclaim not temporary but true emancipation. Rachel Imeinu is waiting. The Land is waiting. Mashiach is waiting. We can help bring him. Come.
Editor’s note: The following two poems are from Yaffa Ganz’s forthcoming book of poetry, Wheat, Wine & Honey.
Too long have you dwelled in the Valley of Tears.
Don your splendor for the Glory of G-d is upon you!
No longer the tired, battered, empty city of Yesteryear.
Not yet the bright, Holy, Divine City of Tomorrow.
Jerusalem is still the city of Today.
Vibrant, noisy, pulsating with life.
Young, searching, emerging.
Dissenting, rebellious, defying.
Sparks of light shining through dark places,
Bursting with energy and promise,
Waiting to fully emerge,
Waiting to be redeemed.
Waiting to light the way for the Redeemer.
Jerusalem is not so much a place
as a dimension.
A hard unyielding rock
reaching up to the Divine Throne
in the roots of the soul.
Carved by millennia
of suffering and love,
of faith and war.
An earthly cosmos
to hold the heart of the universe.
A footstool for the Creator.
A place to sing a song