The two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar are May 5 and 6. The month extends through June 3. During this time, our task is to refine or purify our souls in preparation to receive the Torah on Shavuot.
Goals are often set by desire rather than time. People say they’d like to lose weight or learn a new language but, unless someone’s trying to lose 10 pounds by the date of a high school reunion, the second step of “by when” is usually omitted.
How perfectly wonderful that we can count the days of the Omer as stepping stones toward our goals. There are 49 days, or seven weeks with seven days each, that serve as increments for change. They began on the second day of Passover, which was April 21. Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day, May 23, and a great day to assess your progress. Then you’ve got a little more than two weeks to catch up with yourself, so on June 8, Erev Shavuot, you’ve moved yourself closer to the mark.
There’s no shame if you got a late start. Your goal may be to set the intention for change, and that can be done in an instant. Then set another goal. Our inner work doesn’t stop on Shavuot.
Let’s consider what refining or purifying your soul might entail. For instance, do you have a potty mouth? Set a goal to refine your speech. Do you gossip? Curb your inclination and elevate your spirit. Perhaps you take Hashem’s name in vain. You can stop doing that.
Simply, you could mindfully observe whether or not you thank others for each act of kindness they perform for you. Whether you are a child or a spouse, do you thank the person who makes dinner for you each night? Is the one who clears the table and washes the dishes thanked? If the same person performs all of those tasks, he or she should be thanked for each one. We are taught to express gratitude to those who serve us in restaurants but rarely is thanks given at home.
I’d like to take this moment to thank my dear husband who taught our children from the time they were small to say, “Thank you, Mommy,” for making dinner, kissing their boo-boos, and staying up late to help them with their homework. I, in turn, taught them to thank Daddy for everything he did for them. It’s a natural extension for children to get this lesson as it relates to their personal world and then expand it to the concept of thanking G-d for all of it.
Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic. He is quoted as saying, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Dayenu. That helps to heal us and, in turn, plays a part in healing the world.
Every act of refinement or spiritual elevation that lifts us from the primitive realm of beasts up toward the expression of the seven middot, soul types or divine emotive attributes, is tikkun olam. The seven middot are: kindness, severity, harmony, perseverance, humility, foundation, and royalty. Iyar is the acronym for alef-yud-resh, “I Am G-d your Healer,” from the book of Exodus 15:26.
All that we need is contained in the Torah, but we can find our path home through the same principles outlined in additional resources. A quick-read, timeless book that can help you jumpstart your process is “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. He is a Mexican surgeon who turned from science to spirituality after a near-fatal car accident. His book offers Toltec wisdom from the ancient, indigenous people of Mexico. The four agreements are:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
Meditation Focus: Quiet yourself and consider the four agreements. Which one might be the easiest for you and which would be most difficult? Take the toughest one on and from now until Shavuot, mindfully practice it each day.