The opening phrase of Parashat Bechukotai: "im bechukotai"- is generally translated as "if according to my laws," after the Hebrew root chok meaning "law." However, the word is also related to chokik, meaning "engrave."

Our learning must be like engraving...

G‑d promises us that if we learn His Torah and keep His laws, He will give us everything that we need. But our learning must not be like a book in which the letters are written with ink on parchment or paper. Our learning must be like engraving with the letters etched upon our hearts and souls.

The best way to engrave the Torah on our hearts and souls is by learning not only the revealed Torah as understood by the Talmud and code of Jewish law, but also the hidden Torah as understood by the 2nd century sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), author of the Zohar.

Every year, in the Hebrew month of Iyar, we experience a three-day transition sandwiched between the 14th of the month (known as Pesach Sheni) and the 18th of the month (known as Lag B’Omer), a commemoration of the passing of Rashbi.

Shem miShmuel explains that this three-day period is similar to the three-month period which a non-Jewish woman must go through after she converts to Judaism, before she can marry a Jewish man. He explains, quoting the Maharal of Prague, that the number three represents transition.

Up until the 15th day of Iyar, which is one month exactly from the day of the exodus from Egypt, the Jews ate the matza with which they fled slavery. From the 15th day on, the manna started to come down from the heavens, and they began to eat it instead.

So, the first day represents detachment from Egyptian food. Similarly, the first month of transition of the convert to Judaism is the month of detachment from her previous non-Jewish condition.

On the second day, the Jews in the desert began to appreciate the manna for what it was, without any reminder of their Egyptian past. So also, the convert begins to experience and examine her position as a Jewess, independent of her non-Jewish past.

And ultimately, on the third day, the Jews in the desert began to look forward to the giving of the Torah, the day which would transform them into a complete nation, while the convert looks forward to her consummation in marriage to a Jewish man.

...during the final third of the night, the morning begins to shine through.

Shem miShmuel further compares these three stages to the final of the three periods into which the night is divided the Talmud tells us that during the third period, the "wife converses with her husband, and the baby nurses." Thus, it’s not a completely quiet time when everyone is asleep, as one might expect. The reason, Rashi explains, is that during the final third of the night, the morning begins to shine through. We already feel the beginning of the dawn.

The same is true during the final segment of counting the Omer, which begins with Lag B’Omer. From Lag B’Omer and onward, we begin to anticipate Shavuot, the holiday which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. We are still in transition, but we can already feel the goal at hand.

[From "Inner Lights from Jerusalem" based on Shem miShmuel and other Chassidic and Kabalistic Sources, translated and presented by Rabbi David Sterne.]