Every month of the Jewish calendar highlights unique events in the unfolding story of the Jewish people. The month of Iyar, the second month, is no exception.
The month of Iyar usually coincides with the Gregorian month of May. Iyar is its Babylonian name. The Bible refers to it as ‘the second month’ or ‘chodesh haziv’ (the month of shining or blossoming). There are always two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar (celebration of the new moon), the first of which is the 30th day of Nisan. Iyar always has 29 days.
Although there are no major biblical or rabbinical holidays in Iyar, there are two minor holidays. Pesach Sheni, the second Pesach, is a mandated make-up day for those who could not bring the paschal sacrifice at its appointed time. Pesach Sheni falls on the 14th of Iyar. Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, is celebrated on the 18th of Iyar.
Two dates commemorating events in Israel’s modern history are celebrated in Iyar. Israel Independence Day is celebrated on the 5th of Iyar, and Jerusalem Day, the day Israel conquered Jerusalem during the Six Day War, is celebrated on the 28th day of Iyar. The 4th of Iyar is marked in Israel as its national memorial day for fallen soldiers (Yom HaZikaron).
On the first day of Iyar, King Solomon began the construction of the First Temple (Kings I:6:1). On the exact same day, hundreds of years later, Ezra began the construction of the Second Temple (Ezra 3:8).
On the first day of Iyar following the exodus, the thirsty Israelites reached a well of bitter water. Moses cast a tree into the water and it miraculously became sweet. God then promised that if Israel followed His ways: “The diseases I have placed on Egypt I will not place upon you, for I am the Lord your Healer.” The Hebrew letters Iyar form an acronym of I am the Lord your Healer, thus Iyar is a propitious time for healing.
During the month of Iyar following the exodus, the mannah which fed the Israelites for 40 years during their sojourn in the desert began to fall from heaven. Mannah is supposed to have healing qualities, another association between Iyar and healing. Also, the Talmud states that “The Torah could have only been revealed to eaters of mannah”. Therefore mannah is considered to increase intellectual capacity and the ability to receive God’s revelation.
The permutation of the four letter name of God through which divine energy flows through the cosmos during the month of Iyar is YHHV (yud hey hey vav). This name is hinted at in the Bible in a passage in Jeremiah, Yithallel Hamithallel Haskel Vyadoa, which means “Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me.” Iyar is thus a time especially conducive to developing the capacity to reflect and meditate on God.
The special part of the body associated with the month of Iyar is the right kidney. In the ancient Hebrew conception of the body, the kidneys are considered to have an intellectual function. The Bible says that the kidneys counsel a person. According to a midrash (biblical commentary), Abraham was taught the entire Torah by his kidneys. The bodily function associated with Iyar is hirhur (thinking or reflecting), which is consistent with the emphasis on meditation and intellect.
Iyar is a time of healing and developing one’s mental capacities. In modernity, Iyar is associated with the founding of Israel and Israel’s regaining of Jerusalem.