Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman
According to the Zohar, each of the twelve months of the year corresponds to one of the twelve tribes of Yaakov. The month of Nisan corresponds to Reuven, the month of Iyar, to Shimon, and the month of Sivan to Levi.
The Shem Mishmuel explains the significance of these associations. Reuven signifies the concept of vision. Shimon connotes the concept of listening. Seeing creates a greater sense of awareness than just hearing. While listening is just hearsay evidence, visual observation is clear and precise.
In Nissan there is a close, firsthand awareness of Hashem and his connection to us. Iyar is a month of great distance. We mourn the tragic loss of the students of Rabbi Akiva and the loss of the beit hamikdash, which that terrible event represented.
Although it seems we are far from our beloved king, we shouldn’t in any way think that Iyar is really worse than Nissan. The period of Sefirat haOmer is a time of inner work and elevation. Hashem placed the soul in this world so that it would struggle to search and ultimately find its Creator. Overcoming difficulties unleashes untapped energies and causes a person to grow.
Sefer Micha states, “Ki eishev ba’choshech Hashem or li.” When I sit in darkness, Hashem is my light. In Nissan, the Shechina came down to us, turned night into day, and redeemed and uplifted us. In Iyar we must search for Him by rededicating ourselves to the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. Through our own efforts we can rise even higher.
Sivan is the month of Levi, who signifies connection. We rediscover our bond with Hashem, which is now stronger as a result of our struggle to come close to Him during Iyar. Once again, we re-accept the Torah, which binds every level of a Jew’s soul to Hashem.
There’s a symbolic representation of the three months in the mazalot, the astrological representations of the heavenly constellations. Nisan is a sheep, Iyar is an ox and Sivan is twins.
The sheep is a pampered animal, well cared for by its master. This represents our intimate relationship with Hashem in Nissan. In Nissan he redeemed us from Egypt, led us into the desert and provided for all our needs.
An ox is a hard working animal. Iyar is a time of struggle and difficult inner work. Although we may not see results immediately, we are enjoined to fulfill our duty. Accepting the yoke of Torah without necessarily feeling pleasure or satisfaction is such an important lesson. We must know that we have a commitment that is not based on good feelings. As difficult as it may seem, eventually we will reap the rewards.
Sivan is the month of twins. The verse in Shir Hashirim refers to klal Yisrael as “my perfect one.” The midrash rereads tamati, meaning my perfect, as te’omati, my twin. Hashem sings the praises of Israel. When we receive the Torah, we discover incredible spiritual wells of goodness and holiness within us. A personwho develops and perfects his tzelem Elokim according to the ways of the Torah becomes a twin image of his Creator.
The month of Iyar is a spiritually difficult month. It lacks the inspiration and glory of Nisan. We mourn the loss of falling from the heights of Nissan to the darkness of Iyar. But the commitment of the ox, the drive to achieve even in times of alienation, pushes us to stick with the Torah and do the mitzvot no matter how difficult. Hashem truly appreciates this hard work even more than the love and passion of Nissan. Then after all the hard work of Iyar, we enter Sivan, the month in which the Torah is given, when we connect as twins to our Father in heaven.