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Iyar: Month of Healing

‘His kidneys are failing; he has just a few hours left to live.’  In the early days of the Covid epidemic, Rabbi Chaim Ginzberg had contracted covid.  Within several days, his oxygen levels had declined, and his condition deteriorated rapidly.  By erev Pesach 2020, intubated and on full life support, the doctors in the ICU gave up on him, calling his family to say goodbye.

But his family and friends did not give up. Instead, they enlisted many thousands of Jews from around the world to pray for his recovery.   Miraculously, his kidneys began to work again, and within a few days his major systems were functioning. Stunned, the doctor in charge of his care remarked, ‘There is not much that I believe in, but I now believe in the power of Jewish prayer.’

Over three thousand years ago, in the month of Iyar, the Jews arrived at an oasis. En route to Har Sinai, the supplies of water that they had brought with them from Egypt had run out, and they were thirsty. Yet when they stooped to drink, they found the water to be bitter. They cried to their leader Moshe, whereupon G-d told him to cast a branch from a nearby bitter bush into the water. Miraculously, it turned sweet, and the Jews named the place Marah - Bitter, for the bitter waters that they had encountered there.

Hashem then promised the Jewish nation: ‘If you listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d and do what it right in His eyes, and listen to His commandments, and observe all His laws, then all the diseases that I have placed on Egypt I will not place upon you, for I am G-d your Healer.’

Since then, Iyar has been a propitious month for healing.  Our rabbis tell us that the name of the month is an acronym for the words אני ה' רפאך – I am Hashem your healer, the words that G-d told the Jewish nation 3336 years ago at Marah.

This is indeed a powerful promise.  If we but follow G-d’s commandments, the countless diseases that have plagued us throughout history cannot harm us.  For, as the 20th century Lubavitcher rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel Schneerson explains, ‘The laws of the Torah were given not for the benefit of the Creator, but for the benefit of the observer, and for his good health, both physically and spiritually. They are meant for the good and happy life of man, not only in the afterlife, but also in this life.’

We take such great care with our health, spending so much of our time and wealth on preventative treatments and cures.  Would it not be wise to expend just a little of that effort in turning to our creator and following the prescription that G-d gave us?  To look after our bodies spiritually as well as physically? 

For our Father in Heaven loves us, and He only wants to bestow blessings and good upon us.  Yet sometimes, our actions act as a barrier.  

It is no coincidence that the month of healing is also the month of growth.  As we count the days of the sefirah, our task is to bring ourselves from the confines of the Egyptian immorality to the freedom of Shavuos.  From the lowest of lows to the highest of heights, step by step, day by day, so that on the 50th day we can receive the Torah, the source of all life.  For, as the Rebbe continues, ‘There is no perfection in this world. Therefore, everything as well as every individual has room for improvement’

Indeed, none of us are perfect, and Iyar is the perfect time to work on ourselves.  We are not asked to take big steps; true growth begins by making small, meaningful changes in our lives.  But for those of us who are searching for blessing and healing, perhaps the simplest place to start is to turn to the guarantee our Creator gave to us.  If you but follow My commandments….


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