The month of Iyar has a lot in common with Chol HaMoed, the intermediate days of the festivals of Passover and Sukkot. Just like these two week-long holidays start and end with holy days, with several week-like days in-between, so this time of year is bookended by major festivals with a long period of regular life in-between. Iyar has no major Biblical holidays in it, but is bookended by Nissan, with the peak days of Passover, and Sivan, with the peak days of Shavuot. Iyar is the way in-between these peak experiences.
According to Breslov Chassidic tradition, Chol HaMo’ed is the period during a holiday in which you take the spiritual impression of the beginning days and walk with them in regular life. Walking with the spiritual inspiration received at the beginning of the holiday is how to integrate these impressions. The end of the holiday is the time to revisit these spiritual impressions and learnings and see how they have integrated.
The month of Iyar, and this Omer period, presents a similar spiritual opportunity on a larger scale. Hopefully your heart and mind opened spiritually during Passover. Iyar is the month to let these ideas and inspirations go with you into daily life. While the holidays are peak experiences, daily life is made up of flat paths and alternating peaks and valleys, sometimes in the same day.
How appropriate is it that Iyar is both a semi-mourning period remembering the many thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students who died from a plague during this period as well as a time of marked with contemporary celebrations and commemorations all evoking contrasting emotions. Just before Iyar we have Holocaust Remembrance Day, followed a week later by Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and civilians. The next day is Israel Independence Day followed in the next weeks by Lag B’Omer – the day Rabbi Akiva’s students stopped dying, and Jerusalem Day, celebrating Jewish sovereignty of the Western Wall and the Temple plaza. Let’s use these days of walking between peaks to bring the lessons from Pesach and from our own spiritual goals into regular daily life. If we can do this consistently over the next month we will have a real offering of wisdom, baked into regular life, to offer up on Shavuot.