On the surface, the days of Sefiras HaOmer seem to have two, somewhat contradictory themes:
On one hand, it’s a time a mourning when we limit joyous activities, like making a wedding, listening to music or buying new clothes.
According to the Talmud, in the weeks between Pesach and Shavuos, Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students died in a plague because they did not properly respect and honor one another (Yevamos 62b). Though there are several commentaries on what it means that Rebbe Akiva’s students did not show enough respect and honor, all agree that they fell short in the mitzvah of ve’ahavta l’reacha k’mocha, loving your fellow as yourself.
During the weeks of Sefiras HaOmer we thus mourn over their behavior and the harsh din (judgment) they received.
On the other hand, chodesh Iyar which sits in the middle of sefiras HaOmer and contains the majority of its days, is a time of great rachamin (compassion) and an influx of Divine healing. The Hebrew letters that spell the month of Iyar are actually an acronym for the phrase “Ani Hashem Rofecha”—“I am God, your healer” (Shemos 15:26).
We no longer daven for rain at this time of year. But, according to Reb Pinchas of Koritz, even the rain that falls between Pesach and Shavuos, particularly in Iyar, is a refuah for diseases that have no cure.
So, how can we tap into the flow of rachamin in chodesh Iyar? How can we use this time to change the dinim in our lives to rachamim?
Chodesh Iyar: Opening the Door to Divine Compassion… or Closing it
According to the Zohar, when Hashem wants to show us compassion, He first sends to us an individual who, himself is in need of compassion. When we have compassion on this person, then Hashem has compassion on us, as it says, “Whoever has compassion on God’s creatures, receives compassion from heaven.”
But, this compassion is not just physical in nature. It also involves our thoughts:
ת“ר (ויקרא יט, טו) בצדק תשפוט עמיתך… הוי דן את חבירך לכף זכו
The Sages taught: “You shall judge your fellow with righteousness” (Vayikra 19:15). [This means]… you should judge another on the side of merit.
יְהוֹשֻֽׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה אוֹמֵר: …דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת
Yeshua ben Pirachya says…
judge the whole all of a person to the side of merit
Pirkei Avos 1:6
According to the Baal Shem Tov when you see a person commit a shameful act or serious transgression, you should realize that at that precise moment you are seeing a person caught in a life and death battle with his yezter hara (evil inclination), and his yetzer hara is wining:
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: A person’s evil inclination
overcomes him each day and seeks to kill him, as it stated:
“The wicked watches the righteous and seeks to kill him”
You should have compassion on this person and make every effort to find some justification for his actions— even if he is known to be a rasha (a wicked person).
“He only did it because his desires and passions overcame him… he doesn’t know better and doesn’t realize the seriousness of the transgression…”
By not arousing judgment upon someone who is overwhelmed by internal conflict and the struggle with his yetzer hara, you fulfill the verse “You shall not incline the judgment of your poor in his dispute” (Shemos 23:6). In the end, you will arouse favorable heavenly judgments upon him.
Every Jew no matter how far away he is from Hashem and his true tafkid in the world, still has a chelek Elokah mima’al, a Divine spark of kedusha, within him that no one else in the world possesses. He is, at any given moment, a tzaddik in potential:
וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים
Your people are all Tzaddikim…
But even if every single Jew has as aspect of tzaddik inside of him, this part can only be actualized through the slow process of emotional refinement and spiritual growth. When you judge your fellow favorably, not only can you save him from even the most severe heavenly decrees, your intentions can create a spiritual opening for him to do teshuva. This can lead him to begin that process of refinement and growth later on.
This is only half the story, however.
When you see this lowly and unpleasant thing in your fellow, what you are really seeing, continues the Baal Shem Tov, is a reflection of yourself. The very area where your fellow is struggling is the same area where you yourself struggle.
And just as there may be heavenly judgments and accusations against this person, there may be similar heavenly judgments and accusations against you.
In the heavenly realms, a person can’t be sentenced for his transgressions unless he first passes judgment on himself. If he doesn’t do a cheshbon hanefesh (self-accounting) and teshuva, then Hashem gives him another opening. He shows him a person with a similar lacking. When he passes judgment upon this individual, whether for the side of merit or for the opposite, he simultaneously seals his own judgment.
וְאָמַר רַבִּי יִצְחָק: שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים מַזְכִּירִים עֲוֹנוֹתָיו שֶׁל אָדָם,
וְאֵלּוּ הֵן… מוֹסֵר דִּין עַל חֲבֵירוֹ לַשָּׁמַיִם
Rabbi Yitzchak said: Three matters evoke a person’s iniquities, and they are…
passing a [negative] judgement on another to Heaven
Given the above, there is another way to understand the mitzvah of ve’ahavta l’reacha k’mocha:
You shall love your fellow, because he is like yourself
By seeking out the good points in your fellow and judging him favorably– even when he is at his lowest– your compassion on him will illicit a flow of compassion from Above. This influx of Divine compassion can sweeten the harshest decrees and bring with it countless brocha, yeshuas and, refuahs– for and your fellow alike.