Relationships can be difficult. No two ways about it. And the more intense the relationship, the more prominent it is in your life, the more difficult it is to maintain the peace.
We are now in the process of counting the Omer. From the second day of Passover until Shavuot, we count 49 days, each with a focus on a different personality trait.
Working on ourselves can be difficult. Extremely difficult. Figuring out what to fix is part of the process, but actually fixing it is another challenge altogether. And it can be overwhelming. But counting the Omer shows us that every day we should focus on only one thing. One day at a time. We are not expected to change overnight. But we must take a good look within and work on ourselves.
From the first day of the Omer to Lag B'Omer, we count 32 days. The numerical equivalent of 32 is that of lev, "heart."
During this time, we work on our emotions, our ability to feel, our ability to love. Our heart must connect with others, but it also must connect within. And it must be kept in check. A healthy heart is one that is ruled by one's head, that is guided by the intellect.
From Lag B'Omer until Shavuot, we count another 17 days. Seventeen is equivalent to the word tov, "good." When we are able to love and connect to another, we can experience true goodness.
Yet where do we get the strength for such transformative changes? Where do we get this ability to make such strides, to face our challenges and rectify aspects of our lives?
The counting of the Omer takes place over three months: We begin in Nisan, with Passover, then there's Iyar with Lag B'Omer, and we end in Sivan, with Shavuot. So we begin counting as we break out of our slavery, enter into freedom, and we end as free people who have merited receiving the Torah.
But there is a process in between. There's a lot of preparation and work to do to get from Passover to Shavuot.
The End Result of Hatred
Iyar is the only month where for its entirety we count the Omer. Every day, we focus on ourselves and work on our personality traits. And it is specifically during this month that Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer falls.
This day also commemorates when the students of Rabbi Akiva, who had been dying by the thousands, stopped dying. Their death, we are taught, was the result of their baseless and senseless hatred for one another.
But how can we be expected to work on ourselves and get along with others when the righteous students of Rabbi Akiva were not able to?
It is easy to resign oneself that certain things are just too much for us. And there are things beyond our control we can't handle or change. And we may be right. But we are not alone in this process.
Iyar is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha, "I am G-d Your Healer." This is our reminder that we must try our hardest; we must do everything we can. But ultimately, our true healing comes from our Healer, our Creator, who gives us the strength we simply don't have on our own.
That is the lesson of Iyar. And Lag B'Omer marks the time when we have reached the level of the heart and enter the level of goodness. The counting of the 49 days is a process for achieving a good heart — one that loves within, and one that loves and connects to others.
Sara Esther Crispe is editor of TheJewishWoman.org. E-mail her at: [email protected] com.