Rosh Hodesh Iyar Torah Essay - Matan - The Sadie Rennert
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Rosh Hodesh Iyar Torah Essay

Michal Somer

Chodesh Tov!

We are now entering the month of Iyar, a month full of possibilities and dreams. In this month we are privileged to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut on the 5th of Iyar and Yom Yerushalayim on the 28th of Iyar.

This time period that focuses on returning to the land and the founding of the State of Israel relates beautifully to Psalm 126.

א שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת בְּשׁ֣וּב יְ֭הוָה אֶת-שִׁיבַ֣ת צִיּ֑וֹן הָ֝יִ֗ינוּ כְּחֹלְמִֽים:

ב אָ֤ז יִמָּלֵ֪א שְׂח֡וֹק פִּינוּ֮ וּלְשׁוֹנֵ֪נוּ רִ֫נָּ֥ה אָ֭ז יֹאמְר֣וּ בַגּוֹיִ֑ם הִגְדִּ֥יל יְ֝הוָ֗ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִם-אֵֽלֶּה:

ג הִגְדִּ֣יל יְ֭הוָה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִמָּ֗נוּ הָיִ֥ינוּ שְׂמֵחִֽים: . . .

1 “A song of ascents. When the LORD restores the fortunes of Zion —we see it as in a dream—


2 our mouths shall be filled with laughter, our tongues, with songs of joy. Then shall they say among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them!


3 The LORD will do great things for us and we shall rejoice…”

The Rishonim discuss at what point in history this psalm was written. Rashi explains that it was written when Hashem brought Bnei Yisrael back from the Babylonian exile. That time period is known as “שיבת ציון,” language that we see in the Psalm.

The Psalm continues and describes the people to be like dreamers. The medieval commentators offer two explanations for this term.

The Radak explains that Bnei Yisrael were like dreamers because the troubles of exile will seem to have passed like a bad dream. He is referring to the final redemption.

  1. Yeshaya of Trani offers a similar explanation. However he is referring to the redemption from the Babylonian exile. He explains that we see the exile like a passing dream, because it was a short exile, only 70 years.

The Ibn Ezra takes a different approachְ; he explains that we will be like dreamers when G-d brings us back because it is too marvelous to be real life, it must be a dream!

The Psalm continues with Bnei Yisrael’s initial response, and it is speechless and one of laughter. The first to respond verbally will be the nations around us.

In the time period of the Babylonian exile countless nations were exiled by those who conquered them. These nations never returned to their land again. What made the Jews so fortunate to be able to return to their land? It must be G-d’s hand and thus the nations around them proclaim:

“הִגְדִּ֥יל יְ֝הוָ֗ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִם-אֵֽלֶּה”

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

We see a similar sentiment in Mark Twain’s famous essay: “Concerning the Jews.”

״The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

One of the answers to Twain’s questions is in our Psalm:

“הִגְדִּ֥יל יְ֝הוָ֗ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִם-אֵֽלֶּה”

“The Lord has done great things for them”

The Psalm continues with Bnei Yisrael’s verbal response:

: הִגְדִּ֣יל יְ֭הוָה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִמָּ֗נוּ הָיִ֥ינוּ שְׂמֵחִֽים

The Lord did great things for us and we rejoiced.

This is such a powerful Psalm to have in mind in this month of Iyar in which we will G-d willing celebrate the 71st anniversary of the establishment of the modern State of Israel and 52nd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. We are a nation of dreamers watching our dreams come true. The words of the Psalm rang true in the time period of שיבת ציון  and they ring true today.

הגדיל ה לעשות עמנו היינו שמחים

Michal Somer

Michal Somer

made Aliyah from Chicago, IL after studying for a year at Migdal Oz. She completed a year of national service and from there continued on to complete a B.A. in Psychology and Tanakh from Bar Ilan University. During her time at Bar Ilan she learned in their Midrasha and worked for Bnei Akiva in a number of different capacities. She is currently studying in Eshkolot Fellowship program for Tanakh and teaching Tanakh at MTVA night seder.