An Iyar Letter to the Nitzotzos Community from our Mashpia, Rav Burg
Dear Nitzotzos Community,
A gutten Chodesh Iyar!
"And it was in the four hundred and eightieth year after the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, in the fourth year, in the month Ziv, which (is) the second month of Solomon's reign over Israel, that he did (begin to) build the house of the Lord." (Melachim 6:1)
The month of Iyar in Tanach is referred to as the month of Ziv, radiance. Indeed the word Iyar is related to the word Ohr, light. The Sefer Taamei HaMinhagim quotes from various sources that Iyar is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha, I am God your healer.
Why is Hashem described as a healer? We are taught to think of God as our King and the message is that we are his servants. We are taught to think of God as our father and the message is that we are his children. Are we really that sick that we should relate to God as our healer? Perhaps it means that God is our healer when we are sick but if God is described in a particular way it means he is always that way because God is infinite. The implication is that even when we are not sick somehow God is our healer. But what are we being healed from? And what is the connection between God's healing and the concept of light and radiance?
Life involves a great deal of suffering. Just this morning I spent time with a talmid who is sitting shiva after the shocking loss of his father at the young age of 55. Over the past several days hundreds of rockets have rained down upon the citizens of Israel and tragically several innocent people lost their lives. Millions of dollars in property damage. The anxiety of the country is felt when you walk in the streets. You never know if there will be a siren warning us of impending danger. So how do we manage? How do we continue to survive and even thrive under the most challenging of circumstances?
In Nissan we were redeemed from the most horrific conditions one could possibly imagine. The Holocaust was a walk in the park compared to the horrors of what our ancestors endured in Mitzrayim for 210 years. How was it that in a short 50 day period we were able to receive the Torah? It was because we went through Iyar first. Allow me to explain. Thankfully most of us don't frame our lives as suffering but there is no denying that the world is a dark place. Judaism teaches us to be a light in the darkness. To sweeten that which is bitter. Tragedy and suffering are inevitable. Our response to that suffering is our raison d'être. We are a light. We radiate wherever we go. We can ameliorate the suffering of others just by being there. The halacha is that we don't engage someone who is sitting shiva until they recognize us. Why? Are we meant to just sit there feeling foolish? Shouldn't we offer words of consolation? The halacha is underscoring the reality that simply being there for someone is more than enough. If they engage you and want to talk then we follow their lead but just showing up makes a difference. And from where do we get the capacity to illuminate? That is the power of the soul. The soul, as a piece of God so to speak, has the Godly capacity to shine a light on the darkness of this world and in so doing to heal. God is a healer. Not because we are sick but because we are human. To stand in between the finite and the infinite which is the condition of humanity means to engage a world that necessarily involves pain. As we increase God's light in this world we make sense of the suffering by infusing it with meaning. This is the secret to Jewish survival. In every generation they have tried to destroy us. The Jewish people know greater suffering than any other nation. But God is our healer. He lives and dwells inside of us. God as our healer is the lens through which we see the world. We left Mitzrayim as slaves and just a short while later, after undergoing the healing of Iyar, we were ready to receive His divine mission. Iyar taught us that our trials and tribulations in Mitzrayim were a necessary preparation for Har Sinai. If you want to be an "ohr" and a "ziv" you need to be a healer.
In the middle of Iyar we celebrate Pesach Sheini. Those who were unable to bring the Korban Pesach in Nissan get a second chance in Iyar. Iyar heals those who could not even be well enough to experience redemption the first time around. The great doctors never give up hope. The patient is frail and dying but that is why they became doctors to begin with. To help those who cannot help themselves. The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The Chabad of Poway. The southern half of Israel. The patient is suffering. In Iyar we stand tall and proclaim, "The doctor will see you now."