Light and Radiance, Healing, Introspection and Counting of the Omer
The Month of Iyar, Ziv – Part Two
Light and Radiance, Healing, Introspection and Counting of the Omer
Part of an ongoing series entitled Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface
By Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin
In Part One we spoke in part of the significance of this little month of Iyar, the second month on the Hebrew calendar sandwiched in between the two Giant Months, that of Nisan, the month of Passover in which we celebrate the miraculous mass Exodus from Egypt and the month of Sivan in which we celebrate the most amazing and awe inspiring event of all time, referred to as Matan Torah… that single one time event in history when HaShem came down in all His Glory and gave His Torah to His people…His Torah that was to be shared from generation to generation until it would one day encompass the whole world!
It would appear that the magnitude of the events that took place in Nisan and Sivan, the first and third months, would completely overshadow any that took place in the second month of Iyar, but that is not at all the case, for as in the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1 we read, “For everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Given this declaration, we may ask ourselves, for what purpose were we given this in between time designated as the second month referred to as Iyar or Ziv? Why didn’t HaShem in His impeccable planning choose to have Moshe bring the Children of Israel directly to Mount Sinai after bringing them out of Egypt? He certainly could have carried them on eagles wings straight to Sinai to meet with Him! (See Exodus 19:4)
We proposed this question in the last article -were these former Hebrew slaves ready to immediately meet with HaShem on the Mountain, receive His Torah and be brought into Eternal Covenant with their G-D? The answer we brought forth was an emphatic “No!” They were not at all ready!
Iyar-A Bridge in the Gap Knowing this, HaShem provided a 49 day period of preparation, most of which He placed in the month of Iyar, a special time period that would serve as what Rabbi Richman of the Temple Institute refers to as “a bridge from the past to the future”… a bridge from slavery to freedom, from Pesach to Sinai …a bridge not only for our ancestors, but a bridge that remains intact for us to travel today.
There is an ancient teaching in Judaism that during this season each year when we celebrate Passover, we are to bring it home to our hearts and make it our own. We are to celebrate it with the mindset that we too, having been freed from Egyptian bondage, are making our trek through the wilderness and are on our way to meet our Creator at the Mountain!
We are told in Exodus 13:21-22 that HaShem went before the Children of Israel by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in pillar of fire. Today we have neither pillar of cloud nor pillar of fire as did our ancestors of old. We do however, have the incredible promise that HaShem, our Creator and the Creator of the Universe, is with us in every step that we make and every breath that we take! How awesome is that!
Plus we have the added benefit of a roadmap to follow that has been passed down through the ages…and that roadmap is the Torah. In the beautiful words of the sweet singer, King David we read, ”Thy Word is a Lamp unto my Feet and a Light unto my way.” Psalm 119:105,
That Brilliant First Light and the Light to Come! We read of that Brilliant First Light, as it breaks forth through the darkness in the account of the Creation in Beresheit, the Book of Genesis (Gen. 1:1-3).The name of this second month, Iyar (אייר) although Babylonian in origin, when translated to Hebrew is formed from the root word ohr – (אור) which means light. The Jewish sages say that it represents the burst of light that was released into the world first at Creation and then again with the Exodus from Egypt, and again at Sinai…which according to the prophets, will again be released during the Final Redemption!
Iyar is also known as “Ziv” and referred to as the second month in the Hebrew Bible. It means brightness or radiance so we see that it is directly related to light. This brilliant light resurfaces all through the Torah, the Prophets, the Psalms and the Writings in the Tanakh, and also in the various editions of the Jewish Prayer Book known as the siddur. All universally acclaim HaShem as the Source of all Light!
The prophet Isaiah in the first few verses of chapter 60 reflect this concept of glorious Light breaking forth from the darkness which will one day again cover the entire earth and all creation! He brings it down to a personal level when he says,
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, for the Glory (the Kivod) of HaShem is risen upon you. For behold darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the peoples, but HaShem shall rise upon you and His glory shall be seen upon you.”
What is this light? It is His Light shining forth in you …like hidden sparks beneath the surface bursting forth from deep within you and within all who love and honor Him. Again we go to the sweet singer, King David who in Psalm 27:1 proclaims, “HaShem is my Light and my Salvation!
HaShem, the Source of all Healing The month of Iyar/Ziv is not only a month representing light (אור) as illustrated in its name. It is also a month that the rabbis suggest is connected directly to healing for its very name Iyar spelled ך”א in Hebrew, is an acronym for the words, “Ani HaShem Rophecha” – “I am HaShem your healer,” (רפאך ‘ה ינא ), words which G-D spoke to Israel after the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, at Mara where they encountered the bitter waters which He turned into sweet, then promised them that if they would obey His commandments that He would put “none of these diseases” that he brought upon the Egyptians upon them. (See Exodus 15:23-26). These words are especially refreshing given the current world situation today as it faces the global pandemic.
Iyar is also the month during which the manna began to fall from heaven while the Children of Israel were in the desert. The Jewish sages teach that the Manna provided not only physical nourishment but spiritual nourishment which was rich in healing qualities for the body and soul alike. Today we do not have the manna falling down from the heavens, but since the beginning we have been given all the green seed bearing plants, trees and herbs for food for both our physical and mental health, our healing and our general well-being. It is up to us to act responsibly, make good choices and to cultivate these gifts that our Creator declared as good (Genesis 1:11-13). And it is up to us to follow His commandments as set forth in the Torah.
Bridging the Gap- Counting of the Omer We are instructed in Lev. 23:15-16. “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to HaShem.”
This is referred to as Counting of the Omer (Hebrew: העומר ספירת, Sefirat HaOmer). In simple terms the omer offering (Hebrew korban omer, minchat omer) was a grain sacrifice wave offering, brought to the temple in Jerusalem. The first-fruits was a sheaf of barley which was offered in connection with the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The Counting of the Omer is a 49 day period that falls mainly in the month of Iyar and according to Jewish tradition, is a period designed to not only bridge the gap between Pesach and Sinai but to prepare ourselves to once again stand before our Creator at Sinai and renew our covenant relationship with him each year during this special season.
The traditional Jewish Omer blessing is said standing, at nightfall. Prior to the count, the following blessing is recited. “Blessed are You, HaShem our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.” Then we state the Omer count in terms of both total days and weeks and days…for example, “Today is the 25th day of the Omer, making 3 weeks and 4 days of the Omer.”
It is also traditional to then recite with a full heart the beautiful words of Psalm 67.
“HaShem be gracious to us and bless us; and cause His Face to shine upon us; (Sela) that Your way may be know upon earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, Oh HaShem, let all the peoples give thanks to you. Oh let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You shall judge the peoples with equity, and govern the nations upon the earth (Sela.)Let the peoples praise You Oh HaShem, let all the peoples give You thanks. The earth has yielded her increase; and HaShem our own G-D shall bless us. HaShem shall bless us and let all the ends of the earth fear Him.”
In the counting of the Omer each evening, it is important to keep in mind that we are on a spiritual journey to meet our G-d and Creator at Sinai and stand before him (See Deuteronomy 29:9-14). We look inward, take stock of ourselves and do teshuvah; we repent where we have fallen short, and ask for strength to correct our faults and our weakness, both as individuals and as communities as a whole. With humility, penitence and kavanah (intent) we turn our hearts towards our Creator and endeavor to once again dedicate ourselves to be all that we were created to be as we walk with Him.
May we all be blessed with light, with health and healing…and with renewed determination to break free from our own individual bondage, our own “Mitzrayim” and the constraints that impinge themselves upon us. May we each delve soulfully and deeply into our own hearts and our relationship to HaShem discover those hidden sparks beneath the surface as we endeavor to live purposeful lives and fulfill our destiny as individuals and as a community, diverse, yet Echad…united as One before HaShem. Amein!
By Elisheva Tavor,10 Iyar 5780