Iyar, An In-Between Month
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
I got my first vaccination shot last Thursday, and like many, I’m in a waiting period anticipating what life might be like once I, and the rest of us are fully vaccinated. This is a time of waiting and “in-between” both regarding the pandemic and in the Jewish calendar cycle.
Iyar, which begins today, is an “in-between” month. In the Exodus narratives, it is in-between what came before – enslavement in Egypt (Pesach) – and what comes after – Covenantal life with God marked by the revelation at Sinai (Shavuot). During this time, we literally count the days to what is next by counting the Omer each night. Iyar is the only month that is completely consumed by this counting. In our national life, here in the U.S., we are in a period in-between hopefully the worst part of the pandemic and an unknown future.
It is interesting that in Jewish tradition healing is associated with Iyar. The Hebrew letters of Iyar, Alef-Yud-Yud-Reish are an acronym for the phrase from Exodus 15:26,
אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה רֹפְאֶֽךָ
I YHVH am your healer
It is also the month that the manna appears as the central form of nourishment for the Israelites during the travels from what was to what will be. Key features of the manna included that it was completely absorbed into the body and it provided exactly as much food as each person and family needed. The manna created no waste or need for hoarding. Jewish tradition relates it to healing because of the centrality of food to well-being.
These past 15 months highlighted so much that is broken and not well in our collective body, in addition to all the illness and death from the pandemic. In this in-between time, as the world emerges from the worst of the pandemic, the healing messages of Iyar are instructive for getting us to what comes next. Just as the manna provided exactly what we needed, no more and no less, what is it that each of us really need? The inequities in health care, educational access, wealth and more are so starkly revealed by the pandemic.
Let’s ask what rest, nourishment, meaningful work, community and relationships, security, and human development do all of us need?
Spiritually, this month of counting, waiting and healing leads to a covenant of redemptive living with God. May we, as a society, move towards covenantal living with each other by asking what people really need coming out of the pandemic, and by responding with our vast resources to ensure we will all get the physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment we need.