It’s Never Too Late

The Jewish Month of Iyar

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A Momentous Month

The State of Israel was established on the fifth day of the month of Iyar, 5708 (1948), when its founding fathers signed its Declaration of Independence. On this day, the Holy Land, promised by God to the Jewish people, was restored to Jewish sovereignty for the first time in nearly two thousand years. The fifth of Iyar is therefore known as Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut).

As momentous as this event was, the new country was devoid of its heart: ancient Jerusalem, the historic site of the Holy Temple and the focus of the Jewish people’s life and prayers.

Then, on the twenty-eighth day of the same month, nineteen years later, ancient Jerusalem was liberated from the hands of the Arabs in the Six-Day War of 1967. On that day, the holiest city on earth was reunited under Jewish sovereignty–in the words of Psalms (122:3), “the city became joined together.” The twenty-eighth of Iyar is thus known as Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim).

Yet, despite these miraculous events, the modern State of Israel seems to be entangled in a deteriorating maze of crises. Terror and war threaten it on all sides. The custodians of the state daily surrender the Jewish people’s rights to the land, relinquishing vital, strategic areas to sworn enemies, while trampling on the principles most sacred to the Jewish people throughout the generations. The country is plagued by cultural rifts within its own society along political, religious, and sociological lines, and is morally weakened by a spent nationalist ideology that can no longer inspire its sons and daughters. It is now clear to all that, although millions of Jews have returned to the Promised Land and physically rebuilt it, the State of Israel is very far from fulfilling the Jewish vision of the true and complete redemption.

Nonetheless, “the Holy One, blessed be He, always provides the cure before He inflicts the wound” (Megilah 13b). God has provided the potential to rectify this seemingly hopeless situation. If we examine the workings of Divine Providence, we can discern the cure in the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the state and the liberation of Jerusalem.

Healing with Light

It is surely Divine Providence that the two most outstanding events in the relatively short history of modern Israel both occurred in the month of Iyar. To fully appreciate the significance of this, we must turn to the Torah, God’s plan of creation.

We must first consider the name of the month, for God creates everything–both tangible entities and temporal or spiritual phenomena–through its Hebrew name.

The month’s common name, Iyar, is related to the word for “light,” or. Indeed, in the Bible (1 Kings 6:1), there is one explicit reference to the month of Iyar, and there it is called Ziv (“radiance”).

In Kabbalah, the word Iyar is seen as an acronym for the Hebrew phrase (Exodus 15:26), “I am God, your healer” (ani Hashem rofecha). Thus, the month of Iyar is understood to be the month of Divine healing power–healing with light. (This is in accordance with the way of the Ba’al Shem Tov–not to attack darkness directly, head on, but rather to disarm it with light: “a little light dispels much darkness.”)

A Second Chance

Why is healing with light particularly relevant to the situation in Israel today? To appreciate this, let us examine the unique place the month of Iyar occupies in the Torah’s scheme of time.

In the Torah, only one holiday falls in the month of Iyar: the festival of the Second Passover (Pesach Sheini) on the fourteenth day of the month. Normally, the Torah tells us to celebrate Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan, the month before Iyar. But a person ritually impure or too far away from the Temple on the fourteenth of Nisan–and therefore unable to celebrate Passover by bringing a sacrifice to the Temple on that day–has another chance, the Second Passover.

Although the Jewish year begins in the month of Tishrei, the months are counted from Nisan. Iyar is thus the “second” month both in the ordinal sense and inasmuch as it is the month in which one is given a second chance.

Every holiday in the Jewish calendar teaches us a basic lesson how to fulfill our purpose in life, how to serve God maximally the whole year. The message of the Second Passover–and thus, the general message of the month of Iyar–is that it is never too late. No matter in what situation we find ourselves, no matter how low we have fallen, no matter how impure we may feel or how far away from our life’s goal we are, we can always, with God’s help, rectify our situation.

And so it is with regard to the State of Israel. The fact that it was founded and its wars were fought and won in the month of Iyar teaches us that we must not despair. The power of light can overcome the darkness; it is never too late to rectify the situation.  

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