The Temple Institute: The Month of Iyyar: From Darkness to Light

 

 


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Events Archive

The Month of Iyyar: From Darkness to Light

 

Iyyar is the month in which the Levites first raised the Tabernacle onto their shoulders to carry it through the desert, and it is the month in which King Solomon laid the foundations for the Holy Temple onto the bedrock of Mount Moriah.

The month of Iyyar falls between the months of Nisan and Sivan. Nisan is the first of our months, the month of Passover - the month of redemption from Egyptian servitude, as well as the month of the future redemption of the children of Israel. Sivan is the month in which the Israelites stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, and received G-d's word - the Torah. Iyyar, at first glance, is a sleepy month, simply a link between the "hyperactivity" of Nisan, and the grandeur of Sivan.

Yet, Iyyar is the month in which the Levites first raised the Tabernacle onto their shoulders to carry it through the desert, and it is the month in which King Solomon laid the foundations for the Holy Temple onto the bedrock of Mount Moriah.

The month of Iyyar is known by the name "Ziv" in the Tanach, (the Hebrew Bible), a word which means "brightness." Only during the era of the second Temple was the name Iyyar adopted. Iyyar, related to the words for light, and for air, also means brightness. The month of Iyyar doesn't merely mark the passage of time from exodus to revelation, it marks spiritual growth. The children of Israel were brought out in "haste" by G-d, but while deliverance from evil can occur in the twinkling of an eye, the spiritual maturity required to take on a life dedicated to walking in the way G-d has prescribed, requires spiritual preparation - and that's what Iyyar, which falls in the midst of this 49 day preparation - is all about.

Indeed, Iyyar is the month in which the Levites first raised the Tabernacle onto their shoulders to carry it through the desert, and it is the month in which King Solomon laid the foundations for the Holy Temple onto the bedrock of Mount Moriah.

We learn that the manna, which nourished the Israelites throughout their forty year sojourn in the desert, began to fall during the month of Iyyar. The well of Miriam, which miraculously followed the Israelites from station to station, likewise came into being during the month of Iyyar. We are taught, (Mechilta: Beshalach 17), that the Torah was given only after the Israelites had begun to eat manna. Midrash also tells us that before the people would eat their daily manna, they would imagine the food they most wanted to eat, and the manna would acquire the attributes of that food. During the forty nine day journey from Egypt to Sinai, the children of Israel learned how to make the spiritual journey from perfecting the qualities of the food that they consumed, to perfecting their own, inner qualities. This they learned from their daily portion of manna. Miriam's well taught them how to draw out from the depths the very water - always a metaphor for Torah - that they needed to survive, not just physically, but spiritually. These are the gifts of Iyyar, a quiet month, but a month of steady spiritual growth, nonetheless.

Iyyar - the month in which the Levites first raised the Tabernacle onto their shoulders to carry it through the desert; the month in which King Solomon laid the foundations for the Holy Temple onto the bedrock of Mount Moriah.

The war with Amalek - the Israelites' entrance onto the stage of world history - took place during that first month of Iyyar after the exodus from Egypt. Amalek preyed upon the stragglers - the weak, the tired, the infirm. Amalek preyed upon the spiritual disarray of this newly escaped band of runaway slaves. So when Moses lifted his arms and directed the people's hearts toward heaven - even in the midst of battle - the children of Israel prevailed. And when even his arms grew tired, Joshua and Ben Hur propped them up with stones.

In Iyyar the Levites lifted the Tabernacle up onto their shoulders to carry it through the desert. In Iyyar King Solomon laid the foundations for the Holy Temple onto the bedrock of Mount Moriah.

Yom Atsma'ut - Israel Independence Day - occurs on the fifth day of Iyyar. The establishment of the modern state, the ingathering of the exiles, the return to the land, Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, (liberated on the 28th of Iyyar), and the return of Israel as the center of Torah knowledge, are all spiritual steps - steeped in blood, sweat and tears - toward the divine promise of redemption.

The Tabernacle and its vessels finally completed, the Levites lifted them up onto their shoulders and carried them through the desert. The stone, wood, precious metals all necessary for the building of the Holy Temple, lovingly gathered by King David, King Solomon laid the foundations for the Holy Temple onto the bedrock of Mount Moriah.

The fifteenth of Iyyar is the Second Passover. This was the day that Jews who had been unable to bring their Passover offering to the Holy Temple by the first day of Passover, (either because they were too far away, or because they were ritually impure at the time), could bring their offering and fulfill the commandment. Literally, a second chance: G-d's recognition that we are only human; G-d's confidence that our chief desire is to serve Him.

The eighteenth of Iyyar marks Lag B'Omer - the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. This day marks the passing of Rabbi Shim'on bar Yochai. Wanted by the Roman authorities, who sought to torture and execute him for having expressed his contempt for the licentious and cruel Roman "culture", Shim'on bar Yochai hid, literally underground, in a cave for thirteen years, where he authored the Zohar - the Book of Splendor. The custom to this day is to light bonfires all across Israel. This physical "increasing of light" is meant to be a metaphor for the great influx of the light of Torah that Rabbi Shim'on bar Yochai's teachings have brought into the world.

Iyyar - the month of brightness, marks the passage from the darkness of slavery and exile to the brightness of revelation and the acceptance of G-d's Torah, and the yoke of heaven, by the Israelite nation. When we, the children of a nation that walked with G-d in the desert, raise up His expectations of us proudly upon our shoulders, and allow Him to dwell in our hearts, then He guides our steps. When we are determined to lay the foundations for His Holy Temple onto the everlasting bedrock of Mount Moriah, in the holy city of Jerusalem - then our future - like the month of Iyyar - will truly shine bright.

 

 

 

 

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