Photo of Gilboa Iris in Samaria [photo cred: Aviva Morris]  

Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the Month) is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the birth of a new moon. It is celebrated as a minor holiday, with abstention from some types of household labor. Iyar is the second month of the Hebrew year, following the month of Nissan. It typically corresponds to April or May in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Rosh Chodesh Iyar is two days, which started during sundown on Saturday, April 14th.

The name Iyar (אייר) is often attributed to an acronym for “I am G-d your Healer” (אני י‑י רפאך). This passage comes from Exodus 15:26, shortly after the Jews had left from Egypt and crossed through the Red Sea into the desert of Shur, they found themselves thirsty and without water. On approaching Marah, they complained they could not drink because the water- like the name of the fountain- was bitter. G-d made the water sweet to drink and told the people if they listen to him he will heal them. This passage indicates that the month of Iyar is a time for healing.

During Iyar, there are three Israeli National holidays and two religiously-observed ones. On the 4th of Iyar, Israel commemorates Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror during Yom Hazikaron or Israeli Memorial Day. As the sun sets on Memorial Day, Independence day is ushered in with fireworks and joyous celebration on the 5th of Iyar. Later, on the 28th of Iyar, Jerusalem Day is recognized, as it is the day the Old City of Jerusalem was captured and Jerusalem was reunified following the Six-Day War in 1967.

Pesach Sheni, or the holiday of ‘second chances’, falls on Iyar 14th. Pesach Sheni means “The Second Passover” and was created at the request of people who were unable to participate in the Passover sacrifice. Therefore G-d created this holiday, one month after Passover, for those unable to participate as a second chance. This reminds us that it is never too late.

Finally, there is the holiday of Lag B’omer on the 18th of Iyar. This is the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (also known as Rashbi) was a great sage in Judea in the time following the destruction of the Second Temple. He requested that his day of passing should be a day of joy and has become a minor holiday of sorts. It is commemorated with bonfires, outings, and festivities especially at the site of his grave in Meron. In past years, it has been recorded that nearly one million people attended.

Lev Haolam wishes you a very joyous month of Iyar, full of healing and blessings from Israel.