Ox.Significance of this Month
Iyyar, the second month of the Jewish calendar falls between the Biblical holidays of Passover and Shavuot. This period is also known as the Omer. In Temple times a daily barley sacrifice was offered during this time. Nowadays, the Omer is seen as a spiritual preparation from the Exodus of Passover to the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot. Every night we count the Omer by indicating how many days and weeks have passed since the beginning of the period.Holidays
During Temple times, every person was responsible for participating in the offering of a Passover sacrifice. In order to participate, one could not be ritually impure. In the event that one was impure, or too far away from the Temple on Passover, the Torah allowed them to bring a compensatory sacrifice known as Pesach Sheni, or "the Second Passover." This sacrifice was brought on the 14th of Iyyar, exactly a month after Passover.
Rabbi Akiva, one of the great Rabbinic sages, had 24,000 pairs of students who died of a plague during the Omer. The plague ended on the 33rd day of the Omer, which is known as Lag B'Omer
, and which falls on the 18th of Iyyar. In Israel, Lag B'Omer is celebrated with picnics and bonfires. Lag B'Omer is also the yahrzeit of the great Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who is considered the founder of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah. In the Middle Ages, many Jewish communities in Europe were massacred during the Crusades, which took place during the Omer period.Yom Haatzma'ut
, the anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel's Independence Day, is on the 5th of Iyyar. The day before, Yom Hazikaron
, is a memorial day for soldiers who have fallen while fighting for Israel's independence and defending its security. The juxtaposition of these two days is intentional: the soldiers who gave their lives were directly responsible for the existence of Israel as an independent state. In this way, a day of solemn commemoration can be followed by joyous celebration and song. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli forces took control of Jerusalem on the 28th day of Iyyar. This day is known as Yom Yerushalayim and is a day on which we celebrate the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people and Israel's miraculous victory during the Six-Day War.Women to Celebrate
- On March 7, 1969, Meir was nominated by the Labor Party to be Israel's first woman Prime Minister. She held this esteemed position until 1974. At the time of her appointment, Meir was the world's third woman Prime Minister. Rachel Blaustein
- One of Modern Hebrew's greatest poets, she is known by her first name only, "Rachel." Rachel's poetry is lyrical, excelling in its musical tone, simple language and depth of feeling. Her love poems stress a feeling of loneliness, distance, and longing for the beloved. Other poems deal with human fate, with the poet's relation to her own difficult life, and death. Some of her best-known verse express love for the Land of Israel and nostalgia for the Sea of Galilee, where she grew up.Naomi Shemer
- Known as the "First Lady of Israeli Song," Naomi Shemer has composed many well-known Israeli folk songs, including "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold) and several of Rachel's poems (see above). Many of her songs recreate the landscape that was such a part of her youth and reflect her love of the topography and scenery of the Land of Israel.Famous Women's Yahrzeits
- 6 Iyyar 5700 (May 14, 1940). A major figure in American radicalism and feminism, Goldman was an early advocate of birth control, free speech, women's equality and independence, and union organization.Nellie Sachs
- 6 Iyyar 5730 (May 12, 1970). German-born poet and writer who wrote about the Holocaust. She was awarded the 1966 Nobel Prize for Literature.Text Studies
Oh Jerusalem: A Conversation - Explore your own vision of Jerusalem through these evocative verses. This conversation weaves together three texts: a Psalm that includes a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, the Babylonian Talmud, and Midrash Esther Rabba. Oh Jerusalem: A Conversation
(PDF file 108Kb)
[Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
version 4.0 or higher.] A Tale of Two Anthems
: Hatikvah & Psalm 126 - During the fourth Zionist Congress in 1900, these two poems were submitted as contenders for the Zionist national anthem. Hatikvah is a 19th-Century poem while Psalm 126 was traditionally chanted before reciting the grace after meals on Shabbat, festivals, and special occasions. These poems are often sung, but rarely learned. Borrowing from the format of a traditional page of Talmud, these poems have been positioned as the central text bordered by traditional commentary and modern poetry in postmodern Talmudic dialogue.First Amendment
: Free Speech Versus Ethical Speech - Emma Goldman, an early advocate of free speech and whose Yahrzeit we commemorate this month, said: "We shall soon be obliged to meet in cellars, or in darkened rooms with closed doors, and speak in whispers lest our next door neighbors should hear that freeborn citizens dare not speak in the open." This special Talmud page compares notions of free speech in Jewish and American traditions.Activities
Israeli Dancing/Singing - Celebrate the month of Yom Ha'aztmaut and Yom Yerushalayim by singing your favorite Israeli songs and/or Israeli dancing.
End of the Year Ceremony - For many campuses Iyyar is the last time that Rosh Chodesh groups will meet before summer vacation. Take time to reflect on the year and the Rosh Chodesh group, honor graduating seniors, and to share everyone's plans and blessings for the summer. This may be coordinated Hillel's text study "Blessed Be Your Coming, Blessed Be Your Going." Conversations
The State of Israel - Discuss your relationship to the State of Israel. Have you ever visited? Do you have friends and family who live there? What is Israel's significance to the Jewish people?
Preparing for Momentous Events - During the period of the Omer, when the Jewish people are counting the days until Shavuot and the receiving of the Torah, discuss how you prepare for momentous events in your life.
Second Chances - In the spirit of Pesach Sheni, talk about second chances. Do people in the group agree with the statement "everyone deserves a second chance"? When do people deserve a second chance? When do they not? Why is there a second chance to offer the Passover sacrifice? Can you point to times in your life that you wish you had had a second chance?