Iyar – A month “Gradual growth”

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“Gradual growth” is the opportunity of the month. There is a fifty day period between the holiday of Passover (last month) and the holiday of Shavuot (next month) called the Omer period. The Bible asks us to count the days between the two holidays. See Leviticus 23:15. The word Omer refers to a grain-offering that is brought at the end of the counting. To count every day takes a certain commitment and discipline. Some people end up missing a day here and there. This daily counting is an indication of the spiritual potential of the month of Iyar. In the spring, nature is also going through a slow growth process that we can see. Every day there is more blooming and sprouting. The specific influence of this period on the calendar that flows from the spiritual realm is one that allows for incremental steps of spiritual growth. Iyar comes in-between Passover and Shavuot and therefore is completely absorbed in this counting period.

There are forty-nine days, seven weeks of counting. The kabbalists link those seven weeks with what’s known as the seven lower “sefirot”. There are ten sefirot total which are ten phases through which God created the universe. They exist in a purely spiritual reality. The sefirot as a concept is one of the most profound, complex, and all encompassing of the kabbalistic concepts. The names of these ten phases in the order of the seven weeks are:

1-Love, 2-Restraint, 3-Beauty, 4-Dominance, 5-Empathy, 6-Foundation, and 7-Kingship. (In Hebrew – Chesed, Gevura, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchus)

These qualities are reflected in man, and they also are reflected in how God influences the universe. They are hinted to in the ten statements of creation in the beginning of Genesis. They are hinted to again in the “ten commandments” in Exodus. (See also Chronicles I 29:11) Each of the seven weeks is broken up into seven days that again relate to the seven qualities in a minor way. So each day has a major quality and a minor quality.

There are many ways to tap into the spiritual quality of these days. One way which has been mentioned by the sages is to use the teaching of Chapters of Our Fathers Chapter 6:6. (Artscroll Prayer Book p. 583) There you will find a list of forty-eight things that help a person acquire wisdom.

The main growth that a person should desire is that of more wisdom. Wisdom will help a person through times of no job and no romance much better than a job and romance will help a person through times of no wisdom. The forty-eight things in that teaching are all things that make a person more worthy of receiving wisdom from God. For example, number 8 is “happiness”. Do you think God wants miserable wise people in the world? The happier you are, the more God wants to bestow wisdom upon you. Of course it takes some doing and a commitment to become happy. The first step though, is to say “I’m going to work on the quality of happiness.” You might then look up sources in Judaism that discuss happiness, or buy a book about it. Each one of the forty-eight things fits into a day of the Omer. Each quality is worthy of a commitment on our part to acquire that quality fully. The forty-ninth day may be used for review, or putting them all together. Since the end of the counting is the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah, the counting period is particularly ideal for development in this area.

Conversely, Passover is related to a burst of inspiration. An indication of this is that we left Egypt in an incredible hurry. Why didn’t God take us out slowly? The experience of leaving Egypt is an example of how to remove oneself from a bad influence. Sometimes it takes a burst of inspiration to change. The counting period that follows shows us that inspiration needs a sustained commitment in order to be real. Anyone with a piece of dusty exercise equipment in his or her basement knows exactly what I mean.

The ox is the astrological sign of this month. Its not built for speed. It’s an animal that was used for plowing. This is slow incremental labor that eventually gets the job done. This is Iyar. It’s a month to plot out your gradual growth. It’s a month to make plans how to become more worthy of receiving God’s wisdom on Shavuot. Take one small step at a time. With commitment and consistency you will be tapping into a higher source of power to reach you goal.

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