Ostriker and Amichai
In which my kids teach me about tefilah

Teachings for the new month of Iyar

We've entered the lunar month of Iyar. This month unfolds entirely during the counting of the Omer. And I just read some really beautiful teachings about spring, the counting of the Omer, and meditation. Here, have a taste:

Did you ever hear the expression "something's in the air"? when we can feel something, but it's just out of our reach, and yet we know it's there, that's when we say "there's something in the air". Judaism tells us that at all times, there is "something in the air". At any particular time, there is a spiritual influence, an ineffable influx, just beyond us, waiting to be tapped into. The minute we tap into it, it becomes a part of us, and we become imbued with it...

During the month of Iyar, meditation takes on special meaning, because it's connected with the exodus from Egypt. The exodus required a spectacular burst of spiritual energy in order to spring us out of captivity in Egypt. But, once having achieved the hurried exit from the land of limitations, it was incumbent upon us to start incorporating that sudden burst of spiritual revelation into our lives. The way we do that, during the month of Iyar, is by meditating.

But how do we know upon what to meditate? The answer is: it's in the air. It's been in the air since Pesach, since the exodus, since the onset of spring. "It" is the spectacular burst which sprung us out of Egypt, and into a state of freedom. Our meditation must be on this burst of energy, but in such a way as to integrate it into our own lives. The way we do that is by counting. The commandment of counting the "omer", requires that for every day for forty-nine days, -seven weeks-, we take a facet of that initial spring energy, meditate upon it, and integrate it into our personalities. The word for "counting" in Hebrew is the same as the word for "telling" or "narrating", and it also means to "polish", or make shine. By counting, we are actually accessing this spirituality which is "in the air", and internalizing it in order to make our personalities shine.

Read the whole thing: Iyar - Jerusalem Connection. (You may find that some of what's on the page is a bit esoteric, and that some of it focuses on Yom Yerushalayim in a way which may not be universal, but I think there's some really beautiful material there.)

I love the idea that Judaism teaches us that all times, there is "something in the air" -- a spiritual tenor or tone to every moment of the day, to every month of the year. And I love the idea that at this season, through the contemplative practice of counting the Omer and focusing on how the divine qualities of lovingkindness and boundaried strength and harmony (and so on) unfold in us, we can access what's uniquely in the air at this time of year. A sense of transformation, maybe. A readiness to go beyond the initial plunge into the Sea, and to continue on toward the moment when we will celebrate our reception of Torah, our covenant with God -- or, framed in different language, our encounter with the ineffable which has left us, and will leave us, forever changed.