An Emotional Rollercoaster

May 8, 2024

The Jewish month of Iyar (Ee-yar), or as my daughter used to call it mistakenly, Eeyor (from Winnie the Pooh), is an exhilarating time of the year. This month alone, we celebrate five different religious and national holidays, including – on the happy side – Israel’s Independence Day and Jerusalem Day. Simultaneously, we celebrate some of the saddest days of the Jewish year this month. Holocaust Remembrance Day falls the day before the month of Iyar begins, and Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) occurs as well.  

Amidst all this, Jewish people also count the forty-nine days between Passover and the giving of the Torah (happy!), which also coincides with the commemoration of the ancient plague that devastated the students of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century (sad!) Talk about whiplash! 

We also celebrate my son’s Hebrew birthday that month, though I don’t think it qualifies as a Jewish Hallmark holiday – yet. 

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of festivity – and the nature of the festivity falls along a vast emotional spectrum. Let’s just say the Jewish month of Iyar gives us all the “feels.”

Now this brings up a good question. How should we go about our everyday lives when there are so many ups and downs –  When you’re on an emotional rollercoaster between joy and grief? I’m not even talking about the month of Iyar. I’m referring to what happens when you wake up in a great mood, but then you get a fender bender on the way to work—but amazingly, you get a raise at your job! Which, of course, is followed by a phone call that your daughter is home and sick. And some form of this happens day of after day – until you’re all worn down.

The Bible, of course, has words of wisdom that shed light on just how to find your balance because you’re not facing this alone. 

The Bible, in Deuteronomy, introduces a prayer called the Shema – which in Jewish liturgy is said during multiple daily prayer services.  It’s a beautiful declaration of faith in the Lord as one God that goes as follows:  

Its purpose is to announce with complete conviction that God is entirely in charge. There’s no other God except for Him and, it continues, we should always have God’s words on our minds.

But there’s a blessing that comes right before the Shema as its used in daily payer services. It’s one that I think not only complements the Shema, but also explains God’s role in our emotional lives.  

That prayer is called “Barkhu,” and it opens with a line from Isaiah. 

This is nice, sweet, and beautiful. But what’s so important about it that it’d be the opening act for the all-important Shema? This Isaiah quote sets the stage for us. Before we can confirm our commitment to God with the Shema – this verse from Isaiah gives us insight into who our God is. I imagine an introduction to God going something like this: ‘Hi everyone, welcome to your belief system. Here’s God, and He’s in charge. God is the one who creates light and darkness; he creates good and bad and, on a basic human level – the ability to be peaceful, happy, and sad. And ultimately, He is the one that makes order of that all.’ 

“Hi God”, we’d all respond. 

Holding light and dark at the same time – like what God does – or, more relatably, more than one feeling at once is key to developing resilience. The nature of the holidays in the month of Iyar, as I’ve shared, is such that we start from the lowest of lows – remembering the 6,00,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust and, more recently, the fallen soldiers and victims of terror in recent wars. These people are our brothers and sisters, and the pain is that of losing members of your family. And then – just like that – we go to the height of happiness, celebrating our statehood and establishing the Modern State of Israel. It’s days filled with family time, BBQs, fireworks, and pride. 

But how can you feel balanced when so much is going on? 

What the Shema and its introduction remind us is that the ups and downs aren’t unnatural. It was God who created light and dark and good and evil. And it’s in that world that we say the Shema – that we live our best selves as servants of the Lord. The goal isn’t to deny or forget the ups and downs – there’s already enough of a drug epidemic in our countries, and we don’t need more video game escapes. Rather, it’s to accept the ups and downs and embrace God at the center.

As Psalm 118 says: 

 Even in our most difficult times, God’s hand is hard at work, turning our pain into purpose and trials into triumphs. Of course, we may not always understand God’s plans, but we can trust in His unfailing love and wisdom. 

This message resonates deeply in the month of Iyar, when the rollercoaster of joy and sorrow kicks into high gear. We may experience moments of immense joy and deep sadness, often within a single day. But amidst this whirlwind of emotional whiplash, we find solace in knowing God is with us, guiding us through the highs and lows.

The end of Psalm 118 says:

Each moment, whether filled with joy or tinged with sorrow, is a gift from God. It’s a reminder of His presence in our lives and His faithfulness to see us through every season.

May we find strength in knowing that even in the darkest moments, God balances everything for us and for good.

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Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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