1. Iyar Is Both the Eighth and Second Month of the Hebrew Calendar

Both Nisan and Tishrei are referred to as the start of the Jewish calendar.1 Iyar is the second month from Nisan and month number eight from Tishrei.

Read more about the two starts to the Jewish calendar: The Jewish Month

2. The Torah Has Two Other Names for This Month

In the Five Books of Moses, the Hebrew months don't have distinct names. Instead, Nisan is called “the first month,”2 Iyar, “the second month,”3 and so on.

In the prophets, Iyar is called “the Month of Radiance” (Chodesh Ziv),4 because it is when the trees are bright with blossoms.5 6

The names we know today, the Talmud tells us, were adopted during the first Babylonian exile.7

Read More: Why Babylonian Names for Jewish Months?

3. Iyar Also Means Light

Iyar is related to the Hebrew word for light, “ohr.” Midrash8 explains that it was named for the manna which began to fall during Iyar,9 a month after the Jews left Egypt. The manna was given with divine radiance.

The Akkadian equivalent of Iyar, Ayyāru, means flower.10

4. There Is a Special Mitzvah for Every Day of Iyar

For seven weeks, from the second day of Passover to Shavuot, the Jewish people count the Omer, marking the passage of 49 days between these two holidays. Each day, we recite another blessing, as the counting of each day is its own mitzvah.

Sefirat HaOmer (counting the Omer) extends from 16 Nisan through the entirety of Iyar until Shavuot (6 Sivan). Thus, Iyar is the only month in which the Omer is counted for all its 29 days.

Read: Sefirat HaOmer

5. The “Second Passover” Is Celebrated on 14 Iyar

In Temple times, the Second Passover (Pesach Sheni) was observed by one who could not—by virtue of being impure or in a distant place—bring the Paschal offering during Passover. He was given a second chance to eat the sacrifice a month later on the night subsequent to 14 Iyar.11

Today, when sacrifices are no longer brought, we commemorate the Second Passover by eating matzah.12

One of the Second Passover’s themes is making up for one’s past mistakes. Read about that in Never Too Late.

6. Lag BaOmer Is Celebrated on 18 Iyar

Before his death, Rabbi Shimon bar (son of) Yochai, a 1st-century Talmudic sage, requested that his anniversary of passing be celebrated instead of mourned.13 He died on the 18th of Iyar in 160 CE,14 and that day, called Lag BaOmer (33rd of the Omer), has been commemorated since.

Lag BaOmer also marks the end of the plague that struck Rabbi Akiva’s students.15 The Talmud relates that 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva died in the period between Passover and Shavuot.16 The Talmud states that they died because they failed to respect each other.17

Read about the Lag BaOmer traditions in The History of Lag BaOmer.

7. The Lag BaOmer Parade Celebrates Jewish Pride

When the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, witnessed the dearth of Jewish literacy in New York City in the 1940s, he established the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education (“Shaloh”), which encouraged Jewish parents to give their children a Jewish education.

One of its programs, “Mesibos Shabbos,” arranged small gatherings for these children on Shabbat and Jewish holidays in synagogues around New York. In 1942, the first public “Mesibos Shabbos” gathering was held outside Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. A handful of children sang Jewish songs, gave charity and said blessings. This eventually evolved into the “Lag BaOmer parade.”

On April 29th, 1956, the Lubavitcher Rebbe led the first large-scale parade at 770. Two thousand Jewish children heard the Rebbe address subjects such as Torah study and the significance of Lag BaOmer. Then, they marched holding signs that promoted Jewish observance. Ever since, a Lag BaOmer parade has been held at 770 whenever Lag BaOmer falls on a Sunday, when public school students may also attend. The parade format has been adopted by Chabad houses and communities around the world.18

Read: Lag BaOmer Parades

Watch: A Collage of Lag BaOmer Parades with the Rebbe

8. Iyar Is a Month of Healing

Iyar is a month of healing. The Chassidic masters19 see this in the month’s acronym: אני יי רופאך, “I am the L‑rd who heals you.”20

The Jewish year is a miniature playbook of the entirety of a Jew’s divine service. Nisan, the first month, is all about birth and renewal. We just “went out of Egypt” in a spiritual sense and are now ready to fulfill G‑d’s commandments with feeling.

Iyar represents the return to mundanity—our first day back at work after vacation. At this point, it becomes difficult to infuse our Torah-learning and mitzvah-doing with the excitement of novelty.

This is where healing comes in. G‑d says, “All the sicknesses . . . I will not place upon you, for I am the L‑rd who heals you.” In other words, G‑d is giving us preventative medicine—the ability to fight apathy and to experience our divine service with passion and excitement. But although G‑d provides assistance we must do the legwork. If we make the effort to view the world through the eyes of a child, with openness and curiosity, we can keep the forces of apathy at bay.21

9. Iyar Has Two Spellings

Divorce is serious business in Jewish law, and divorce documents must be written with the utmost care and precision.

An interesting discussion in the laws of divorce documents surrounds the spelling of the month of Iyar. Is it spelled איר with one yud or אייר with two yuds?22

Rabbi Yaakov ben Moshe Moelin, the Maharil, posits that a man must give his wife two gittin during Iyar, one with איר and one with אייר23. Rabbi Moshe Isserless, the Rema, writes that because of this doubt, unless there is a pressing need, some refrain from getting divorced during Iyar at all!24

In practice, however, the accepted custom is to write Iyar with two yuds.25

Read: Jewish Divorce

10. It Recalls the Patriarchs

The accepted custom is to spell it with two yuds, serving as an acrostic for Abraham, Isaac (Yitzchak), Jacob (Yaakov) and Rachel, the patriarchs and matriarch associated with the supernal merkavah, a Kabbalistic understanding of the divine revelation in this world.26

11. Iyar’s Zodiac Sign Is Taurus (the Bull)

In Jewish mystical thought, the bull symbolizes the animal soul. The animal soul, like the bull, is unruly but can be productive if harnessed. Chassidic thought understands that the negative tendencies of our animal soul stem from an amorphous koach hamit’aveh, a force that desires. Without a harness, the “desirous force” will lean toward self-gratification, but with a yoke, the animal soul can be abundantly productive.

Our mission in Iyar is to tame the bull. Each night, after we’ve counted the Omer, we say a little prayer wherein we ask G‑d to rectify a small part of our animal soul. (Read more about that in A Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer.) We hope that by the time Shavuot comes around, we will be a bit more ready to receive G‑d’s word.

What does Judaism say about the zodiac? Read about that in Is Astrology Kosher? If you have more time and are looking for a more comprehensive treatment of the subject, listen to Horoscopes: Fact or Fiction?