A month that both represents mourning and healing, Iyar is a time of deep introspection and maturity. It is a time of mourning because it is said that in this month 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students were stricken with a plague because of their religious disagreements and their lack of kavod/respect for one another. During this time many Jews abstain from weddings and other celebrations. Yet, this is also a month of healing. As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov notes, the word Iyar stands for the letters of the phrase "ani adonai rofecha" or "I am Adonai your healer." Rabbi Nachman also recommended healing herbs to be harvested this month! "At this season...fruits ripen and all healing plants increase in power, for the earth puts her strength into them at this time... (Likutei Maharan I:277)." As we dive into the characteristics of this month, take note of what you are mourning and what could use a little more light in your life. Try and see if it is possible to make space for both the constriction of darkness and the expansion of light. Just as we struggle through our own wilderness to make way to our promise land so too did our ancestors wandering the desert, "Why was the Torah given in the wilderness? This teaches that if you do not make yourself as free as the wilderness, you will not merit the words of Torah. And as the wilderness has no end, so too Torah has no end, as it says, "Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea (Pesikta De- Rav Kahana 12:20)." The mitzvah, or commandment, to count the Omer during this month is a type of alternative medicine (yes, I see ritual as medicine) for bridging that which we mourn with that which we long for - being in a place of darkness while simultaneously, slowly and steadily, making room for eternal light.
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