These days many of us are obsessed with counting, whether it is calories, steps or something else. We have always counted the days to different events or counted how old we are or any other “counts” we may be interested in. This brings us to the ritual of today — Counting the Omer. For those of you who have never heard of this, here is the scoop on Omer counting:
There is a special period between Passover and Shavuot called “sefirah” meaning counting. The practice is observed from the night of the second Seder until the eve of Shavuot. We are counting the days on which the Omer offering of the new barley crop was brought to the Temple — this connects the Exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Tradition has it that the Israelites were told that the Torah would be given to them 50 days after the Exodus. They were so eager about it that they began to count the days, saying, “Now we have one day less to wait for the giving of the Torah.” (Leviticus 23:15-16)
Throughout time, this period has been a sad one because of many massacres in Jewish history in the distant past and now, in modern times.
During this period, we observe by refraining from joyous events and other customs. The one “day off” is Lag B’Omer, which is the 33rd day.
As always, I have a new book to recommend from the Central Conference of American Rabbis: Omer — A Counting by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar. Rabbi Kedar writes in the introduction that “time, in the Jewish consciousness, is purposeful and directed, ripe with potential, and filled with meaning.
“Yet even as we look toward the future, counting each day forces us to acknowledge and appreciate the significance of the moment. Every day presents us with the choice to stay where we are, to revert to where we have been, or to progress toward fulfilling our destiny.” Her book gives us the blessings and the words to say — plus, something to think about each day.
Now if you are not into books (what a sad thing for “the people of the Book”), you can get an app to remind you when to count, what to say and a few thoughts. Sometimes you have to do a ritual to find the meaning – try it and you may find meaning for yourself and your family!
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.