The New Month of Iyar, then and now

It’s a new month in the Hebrew calendar; the month of Iyar. There’s a famous midrash on its name, marking it as an acronym for the words – Ani Hashem (G-d’s name is marked by the letter Yod) Rof’echa, meaning, I am Hashem your healer. But maybe also – Amen (ken) Yehi Ratzon (amen, may it be Your will)? Or is it actually, “Amen, may it be your will”, namely ours?

The first way to read it is obviously much preferred, especially now. We want to have, hold, believe in and spread a “comforting” message that “G-d is our healer” and “everything will be ok”. But is G-d only our healer?

It reminds me of the story, I think told by Esh HaTorah, to be fair to the origin, about a young man who came to believe in G-d because “a miracle happened to him”. He nearly died in a crazy accident, when a truck came down a dangerous curve, forcing him with his car off the road to a nearby canyon. The car toppled to the bottom, landed on its wheels, and he emerged unharmed. Such a miracle means there’s a G-d, right? He tried to confirm with the rabbi. The rabbi looked at him curiously and asked, “well, then, who do you think sent the truck”??

Indeed, if G-d is our healer, who sent the virus?

Another repeated commentary relates to these two Torah portions we read this Shabbat. Over a cycle of 19 years, this is the one most often read with the beginning of this month of Iyar (13/19), which means there is something about it which helps set the tone for this month. But what? Tazria – Metzora deal with issues of purity and impurity, a world that was totally foreign to us until recently and therefore, again, now seemingly popular, especially since some of the discussion includes “harchakot”, having distances, which is now so familiar. But is that all there is to it?

I’d like to suggest a different direction, based on a favorite teaching, that of “Pesach Sheni”. Pesach Sheni, to be commemorated on the 14th of Iyar, is the only Torah mentioned day during this month. All the other “Israel Days” we celebrate nowadays, came upon us, officially, much later (although some Kabbalists will beg to differ)! What is special about Pesach Sheni is that, unlike all the other Torah holidays, it’s the only “holiday” (sort of), that is made through people. People ask Moses to have another opportunity to have the original Pascal offering, and Moses gets information from G-d that this can be done on the following month, that one we are in now (Numbers 9:1-10).

What this came to stand for is that the “first” redemption, like the first Passover, is totally made by G-d: G-d is the One who took us out of Egypt. And all we had to do was sit back, at home, and wait for the plague to pass and be gone. The “second” redemption, symbolic through the Second Pesach, is made with great human intervention. This is what we celebrate during this month. And therefore, no wonder the “Israel Days’ are davka here and now. This is also what – maybe – these two Torah portions stand for: not randomly “distancing”, but being responsible to our actions, regarding ourselves, each other and G-d.

Of course, G-d is our healer. And S/He is also many other things as well. I believe our task is to focus more on who we are, what we can do, and how we can help bring about better days ahead., starting here and now.

Shabbat Shalom.

Taste of Daf Yomi from this week:

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1 Response to The New Month of Iyar, then and now

  1. rabbaclaudia says:

    Hi Michal, I love this! I just sent it to my kahal. Thank you so much. Let’s talk next week.

    Shabbat Shalom, Claudia


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