On Sunday morning, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, community women gathered at the Young Israel of Hillcrest for the Amen Group davening and brachos party. The motto of this group is a quote from the Chofetz Chaim: “Just one word, ‘Amen,’ can open every single gate in Heaven, causing blessings to be showered on the entire world.”

After davening, Mrs. Rena Greenberg welcomed everyone and shared a brief d’var Torah. She said that, in the parshah, it says that we should live by the word of Hashem. “This means to serve Hashem with energy and exuberance.” She noted that her Zeidy’s yahrzeit is in Iyar, and the shiur was dedicated to his memory, Reb Chaim Yechiel Michel ben Dov Berish. He was someone who performed everything with energy and joy. She noted how we are counting the days until Shavuos when we will receive the greatest treasure of all. She shared that the guest speaker, Rabbi Sholom Steinig, former rav of the Young Israel of Bayside and current chaplain at several nursing homes, is marbitz Torah with so much exuberance. He currently teaches a parshah shiur for women at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills every Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. in the Kiddush Room.

Rabbi Steinig taught that, according to the lunar calendar, the first day of Rosh Chodesh is really the last day of Nisan. He explained that Nisan is always 30 days long, so there are always two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. The length of the prior month determines how many days there will be of Rosh Chodesh. Before the written calendar, people didn’t know when it was Rosh Chodesh, so the Sanhedrin had witnesses testify on the 30th day of every month. They would question people about what they saw, to determine the phase of the moon that they saw. As Jewish communities moved wider apart, it became a problem for people to know when it was the first day of the month. That is why Hillel HaSheini established the calendar and gave us a system that is based on the system that every 19 years we have seven leap years. During leap years, it is a custom to ask for a 13th brachah to ask Hashem to forgive us for pesha, which are sins done intentionally. This year is a leap year. He went on to explain how we follow the calendar because it was given to us by our great Rabbis. He taught that there are seven mitzvos given to us through the Rabbis. Some examples are Chanukah, Megillas Esther, and lighting Shabbos candles.

He then spoke about various events that occur during Iyar. He noted that Rosh Chodesh Iyar was the yahrzeit of Rav Yaakov Emden, and the yahrzeit of his father, the Chacham Tzvi Ashkenazi, was on the second day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Lag BaOmer occurs during Iyar, and the 14th of Iyar is an unusual holiday; there is no Tachanun recited on that day. In the aftermath of the Exodus from Egypt, there were two groups of people who came to Moshe with a complaint. The first group said that they were carrying Yosef’s coffin, so they were tamei on Pesach and were not in a pure status to bring the korban Pesach. The second group was tamei meis from pulling Aharon HaKohen’s two older sons, Nadav and Avihu, from the Kodesh HaKodashim. So, this is how Pesach Sheini was established. It was only for those who had no other possibility of eating the Korban Pesach at the correct time. Rav Yaakov Emden posed a question about this: He said that the people who were tamei could have become clean earlier. Why did they wait until the 14th of Iyar? Rabbi Steinig explained Rav Emden’s answer to this question: In the desert, the Jews left with matzah and they ate the matzah that they baked in Egypt through the 14th of Iyar. The sanctity of the Pesach matzah extended for a month until the manna began to fall. “This teaches us the power of t’shuvah. Normally, if you miss a holiday, you miss it. However, Pesach is a holiday to inaugurate the Jewish nation, so everyone has to be included.”

Rav Steinig concluded that we should celebrate Pesach in the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash.

 By Susie Garber