By Dr. Terry Segal | tsegal@atljewishtimes.com

Rosh Chodesh Iyar begins Sunday, May 8. During this month we consider our inborn character traits, evaluate them, and embrace or replace them with actions that elevate us spiritually. We balance our primitive, animalistic behaviors with our refined spiritual selves to make us worthy of receiving the Torah in the month of Sivan.

During the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, at Whole Foods and again at the gym, I was stopped and asked similar questions, such as “Are you the one who writes the, uh, let’s say, unusual articles about Judaism with the meditation?” I laughed and replied, “Yes.”

Dr. Terry Segal

Dr. Terry Segal

All of their comments were kind, and one woman said, “I don’t always understand what you’re talking about, but I like it. It makes me think.” I hope that she’s reading this article because she has made me think as well.

The whole point is to continue to examine our Jewish ways of life regarding prayer, mitzvot and the rituals that govern our days. I invite you to stretch yourself and accept the challenge to view Judaism through different lenses that focus it and bring it closer to you. I, on the other hand, will strive to include imagery that is also more familiar.

What if, during this Iyar, we imagine that we are Rocky, standing at the bottom of the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum? We are in training, you know. We have the task ahead to refine ourselves, conquering physical cravings and desires, in order to achieve our goal of sprinting to the top of the elevation by Shavuot, June 12.

Most of us wouldn’t be expected to dash up the 72 stone stairs on the first try. Practice and discipline are more likely to result in success.

And so it is with our study of Judaism. We take one step at a time, incorporating rituals and observances. Iyar is the perfect month in which to start. Actually, any month is the perfect month.

In Iyar, we’re commanded to count the Omer. For seven weeks, or 49 days, from the second night of Pesach to the night before Shavuot, we have the challenge of achieving deep spiritual cleansing. During this time, imagine increasing the number of steps we climb, day by day, while focusing on middot to elevate the soul. These are Kabbalah’s seven attributes of mercy, judgment, beauty, victory, splendor, foundation and kingship.

Iyar’s Hebrew letter is vav; zodiac sign, Taurus; tribe, Issachar; sense, thought; and controlling organ, right kidney.

The appearance of the letter vav is like a connecting pipe to lean on as a railing during training.

The bull represents the zodiac sign of Taurus. Sometimes, in words or actions, people are like bulls in a china shop, crashing through and destroying everything. Let’s harness the power of the bull to cultivate determination to stay the course.

Those born under this sign are dependable, generous, down to earth, patient and persistent. They can also be stubborn, unmovable, materialistic and possessive. See which of those traits describe you to understand what challenges you may encounter and consider the changes to implement.

Members of the tribe of Issachar were lofty thinkers who made great use of thought toward understanding the laws of nature and the universe.

The right kidney, the controlling organ this month, aids with purification as it rids us of toxic thinking that impedes the process.

Meditation focus

For the next five weeks, work up to walking 49 steps each day or go for a 49-foot walk (it has to be measured only the first time) or a 49-minute walk every day. Be creative and get moving.

Choose one or two attributes each week to contemplate during your walk. By the time Shavuot arrives, you’ll have used the radiance of the light in spring to refine your physical, mental and spiritual prowess.

Iyar is the acronym for alef-yud-resh, “I am G-d your healer,” from Exodus 15:26. As we all push ourselves to improve, we can envision Hashem walking by our side, offering healing.

When you arrive at Shavuot, like Rocky, raise your hands in the air, turn your face upward and celebrate the glory.