This Shabbat is the beginning of a new month in our Jewish calendar, it’s Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Iyar is the second month of the Jewish ritual year. Nisan, the month we celebrate Pesach, is the month the Torah specifies as our first month. Iyar is the month after Nisan, so it is the second month of our year – it’s the Jewish ‘February’. January has all the excitement and hype of newness, and February has…28 days. Nothing special goes on in February. The most unique thing about February is…it has 28 days. It’s about the number of days, and in that way it’s very similar to Iyar. Iyar is the month of counting the Omer as we head to Shavuot. The entire month is a month of counting, it’s about the number of days.
There is a common Jewish joke that compares the month of Iyar to a famous, boring donkey named Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s not just that they sound the same (Iyar & Eeyore), it’s also that Eeyore is a dismal donkey, Pooh Bear’s flatlined, monotonic friend, who cannot rise to the excitement of anything. But once we’ve opened the door to the Jewishness of Eeyore, we cannot help but step through that door and explore the fullness of the Hundred Acre Wood, in its Jewishness, of course.
Pooh Bear is the young child who goes to the Jewish after-school program at shul. He doesn’t always see how the Jewish things he’s learning fits into his day, but in the end, Pooh Bear connects with ideas that speak to him in very unique ways. Eeyore is Iyar (how could I resist?), the ‘goes along to get along’ person in shul who anchors and comforts with their very presence – there might not be a glowing smile, and maybe there’s a keen awareness of what went wrong, but they are reliable, dependable, and will always be there for everyone. Piglet is the loyal bubbly shul goer who gets excited about everything – always the first to arrive, they welcome everyone else, and genuinely anticipate a great service. Rabbit heads committees to make sure things get done; a stickler for details, he’s clearly the reason all the great ideas actually get done. Christopher Robin is the Gabbai who makes sure things are as they should be. Kanga is every parent, and Roo is every toddler. Owl is, of course, the Sage Talmudist who informs far beyond what was asked, only to confuse the matter. Last, but not least, is our beloved Tigger, who shows up at all our simchas (though we’re not quite sure whose guest list he was on) — he’s in every hora and kicks up the party to true joy. We now have a complete Hundred Acre Minyan.
But aside from the philosophical dive into Winnie the Pooh, the month of Iyar has a beautiful message for us. The month before, Nisan, has all the excitement of Pesach while the month afterwards, Sivan, has the holiday of Shavuot – Iyar has no holiday. The rabbis warn us not to think of Iyar as a time to be passive. In fact, the letters of the Hebrew word ‘Iyar’ create the acronym: “I am God, your Healer”, and so Iyar becomes the month of healing. A time of processing internally, and quietly, for healing and strength. It might look like nothing is happening, but often the most powerful of things happen humbly inside of us. We must never mistake humility for passivity.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.