“On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the Exodus from the land of Egypt, Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting…” (Numbers 1:1)
The second month on the Hebrew calendar is known today as Iyar (אִייָר), the name adopted during the Babylonian exile. But its biblical name is “the month of Ziv:”
“In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites left the land of Egypt, in the month of Ziv—that is, the second month…” (1 Kings 6:1)
Ziv is usually translated as radiance, referring to the sunny and warm weather in the Land of Israel during this lunar month. It is the month during which late spring transitions into early summer. But that’s just the physical aspect of Iyar’s radiance. If we take a closer look at the events that occured during this month, we will see that its real radiance runs much deeper.
Iyar has been a significant month from Biblical times until today. It is filled with historical events of towering spiritual importance.
Let’s take a look at some of the key events that took place during this month:
1. On the first day of Iyar following the Exodus from Egypt, the Children of Israel found themselves at Marah (Exodus 15:23). There, God commanded Moses to turn the bitter waters into sweet, drinkable water. According to the sages, God also gave the Children of Israel the commandments of the Sabbath, the Red Heifer, and to implement civil laws. Radiant!
2. Exactly one year later, God commanded Moses to count the Children of Israel (Numbers 1:1). This counting, or census, revealed that not one single person had died since the previous census seven months earlier. Radiant!
3. The command of “Counting the Omer” was given in the desert (Leviticus 23:15). It entails counting the 50 days between Passover in the month of Nisan, and Shavuot, Feast of Weeks, in the month of Sivan. Since Iyar comes between Nisan and Sivan, all of its days are counted by God’s command. No other month has that distinction. Radiant!
4. In the desert, God designated the 14th of Iyar as Second Passover (Numbers 9:10-12). This allowed those who missed Passover in Nisan to bring their sacrifices a month later. Radiant!
5. On the first day of Iyar in 2928 (827 BCE), King Solomon began building the First Temple (1 Kings 6:1). Extremely radiant!
These five events from the Hebrew Bible alone would be enough to make Iyar a month of spiritual radiance. But God has continued to bless the Children of Israel in this amazing month with the following days:
1. The 18th of Iyar, known as Lag Ba’Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer), is the celebration of the life of the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. The day is celebrated with bonfires and singing and rejoicing at his tomb in the Galilean village of Meron.
2. The 5th of Iyar is the day on which David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence in 1948, a true modern-day miracle! Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated with barbecues, concerts and fireworks, like the American 4th of July, but in a unique Israeli style.
3. The 28th of Iyar is Jerusalem Day. On this day in 1967, God blessed the Israeli army and allowed its soldiers to reconquer the Old City of Jerusalem from its Jordanian occupiers.
As you can clearly see, Iyar is a month filled with historical and spiritual radiance. It is a great month to appreciate God’s blessings to the People of Israel, to the world, and to you!
And if you can visit Israel in Iyar, you’ll enjoy the sun’s radiance before it gets really hot!
Blessings to you and yours for a meaningful and radiant Iyar.