Shabbat of Revival: Between Loss and Joy

This Shabbat is situated between The Holocaust Remembrance Day and Commemoration Day of Fallen Soldiers and Independence Day; a Shabbat that stands between great loss and pain and a sense of miraculous revival, life, hope and Hallel (a prayer of praise): “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

This Shabbat is the first day of the month of Iyar, Rosh Chodesh Iyar. The name Iyar originates in Akkadian, Ayaru, meaning blossom. It is also called “the month of Ziv,” the month in which the sun is radiant (Hebrew: ziv): “In the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month.”

The month of Iyar is also a month of great loss and pain, the month in which we mark the Commemoration Day of Fallen Soldiers. The month of Iyar is also the month of miracles, the month in which the Children of Israel received manna from heaven and water from Miriam’s well. The State of Israel was established in the month of Iyar, an event that is perceived as the beginning or our redemption.

The month of Iyar has spiritual quality and also earthly quality. The sign of the month is Taurus, a massive work beast, the father of the calf whose golden, shiny, tangible image was worshiped in the desert. This means that the month of Iyar holds loss and bereavement, together with hope and redemption, our daily labor along with a promise of spirituality.

During the month of Iyar nature is at its height, everything is in bloom. In the month of Iyar we also mourn our lost sons and daughters, who fell defending Israel.

Uri Grossman fell in 2006 on a bloody day in which 29 soldiers died, during the Second Lebanon War. In 2011, his father, David Grossman, wrote the poem “How Brief is the Spring;” a poem that expresses the joy of spring with the heartbreak of loss, the beauty and fragility of life:

There’s a brief moment between Adar and Nisan
I which nature is joyous
Filled with life
A healing beauty

So brief,  it is heart breaking
To think it is about to die
It has just blossomed
It is given to me only for a brief moment
And so quickly taken away

Pain, as great and magnanimous as it might be, does not exist without hope. According to Kabballah, the initials of Iyar are “I am God your healer.” With this in mind, the month of Iyar is the month of healing, both of body and soul. In loss and illness we are weak and wanting. The process of healing is gradual, as is the movement from darkness to light, from exile to redemption. How does light  represents the process of healing?

Midrash Tehillim tells about three sages who were walking together in the darkest hour of the night, right before dawn. When dawn broke Rabbi Chia said: so is the redemption of Israel!

What is the connection between light and redemption and healing? “Though I sit in darkness, the LORD is a light unto me” namely, light comes gradually, it begins with a few rays of light, and then it endlessly grows until it shines upon us all.

Feature Photo by Pablo Heimplatz

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