In Jewish tradition, this period between Passover and the festival of Shavuot is referred to as the “omer”. This reflects back to Torah and the charge to take a cutting of barley each day between Passover and Shavuot as a sacrifice. Each day we count the “omer”. There is a traditional blessing for this act and the ritual is still observed in various ways in synagogues. The blessing even has made it into the liberal prayer books as well. Another sign of a desire to re-interpret tradition.
Of course, while many of us do not observe the literal “omer” sacrifice, we are aware, especially as boomers, that the days we have need to “count” for something. Herein rests some of the newer interpretations of this concept of the “omer”. So many of us are in a state of some transition. We are becoming grand-parents, we are transitioning from full time work to the next chapter (or whatever we call it this week), we are re-inventing our self and our life and, in each instance, we slowly become more and more aware that the days we have are more precious than ever. So much to do, so little time!!!!
So it is quite fitting that we can come to embrace this concept of counting the “omer” in a very practical way. The tradition is reminding us that each day “counts” and that we need to recognize it as another gift. Too many of us are aware of friends and family, contemporaries of ours, who now deal with illness or situations that short circuit their dreams and hopes. The blessing of health, if we have it, helps make this “counting” even more precious. Every day counts as another opportunity to grow and seek our own sense of meaning. Every day counts as another opportunity to strengthen relationships and to share love. It is, perhaps, not coincidence that this “omer” season comes between Passover, a moment of liberation from slavery; and Shavuot, a festival when we celebrate the symbolic embrace of Commandments. It is a way of symbolizing again our own journey from that which enslaves us, to a sense of personal freedom; a “harvest” of our soul.
The message of this ritual seems clear. Give thanks that you are given the gift of life. Bless this gift by making each day “count” for life and love.
Not a bad idea!
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.