Iyyar: Healing and Growth

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Iyyar (אִייָר), according to tradition, is an acronym for Ani Adonai Rofecha, “I am G-d your Healer (Exodus 15:26) generally falls between the months of April and May.  According to Inner.org, “Isaachar is the scholarly tribe [associated with Iyyar].  Iyyar is the month of introspection for self-improvement.” This beautifully describes the modern approach to counting the omer.  It is a time to explore our relationship to ourselves and the world, and can be a time for deep spiritual healing.  There are two phases to the healing of Iyyar. The month, according to the system developed by Rabbi Jill Hammer in the Jewish Book of Days, moves from the elements of Earth within Air to Water within Fire.  This is also reflected in the kabbalistic system associated with the counting of the omer during the month of Iyyar.

The first half of the month is the time to work on your physical health and manifest world, working with the element of Earth within Air.  This also aligns to the omer at the beginning of the month.  We begin Iyyar exploring the sephirot within Netzach (endurance).  This directly corresponds to the Mazal for the month, the Ox (שׁוֹר).  The ox is an animal of strength that endures to till the soil and expose it to air.

Following the Ox is the farmer with his switch (the letter Vav).  The switch, when used responsibly, does not harm the Ox — it just reminds the Ox to keep moving forward. Once the earth has been tilled, we need proper amounts of rain and sun to ensure a good harvest. The work of the physical world is done and now we move to the work of tending our emotions and spirit.  Lag B’Omer is the holiday that marks this moment, as the halfway point counting of the Omer
and it is also the gateway from Earth within Air to Water within Fire.

Lag B’Omer (ל”ג בעומר) is the bonfire “May Day” holiday of Judaism.  We relax from our hard labor to join together as a community and dance, sing, eat, and drink around bonfires.  Lag B’Omer is considered, by some traditions, to be the day manna fell from heaven for the first time.  Imagine the joy of the Israelites in the desert!  They say that manna tasted like challah dipped in honey, which is why this I think challah and honey or honeycomb are a great offering for the month. We will not reap the full harvest of our work until Shavuot in Sivan, so we rest and prepare.

We can see this also in the path of the sephirot* in the counting of the Omer.  We begin Iyyar with Netzach (נצח)/Endurance  and move through to Hod (הוד)/Glory, Yesod (יסוד)/Connection, and Malchut (מלכות)/Majesty as we progress through Iyyar to the harvest of Shavuot.

Vav (ו), the letter associated with the month, can be applied in many ways. The Vav is a tool of connection, whether seen as the staff of Aaron the Priest (Hierophant Card), the switch of the farmer, or the connected points on a Magen David.  The letter Vav is also the equivalent of the number 6, so it is directly connected to the Magen David, the six branches of the Menorah, the six directions, and the six matriarchs – if you include Bilah and Zilpah.  The Vav is the tool of connection in language as well, since it is the word “and” in Hebrew.

Iyyar is the month that connects the Exodus with the Revelation at Sinai.  It is one long Vav, the “and”, as we move step-by-step preparing ourselves to move from slavery to freedom, and that is a lot of work.  But the word Iyyar is actually an Akkadian word that means “Rosette” like the roses that bloom at this time in some parts of the world. The work is beautiful and rewarding on many levels, just like the bloom of a rose.