This Shabbat is one of those Shabbatot that can cause some misunderstanding, depending on which synagogue you may go to. Is it Shabbat Acharei Mot or the last day of Passover? Was Yizkor already observed? This challenge is based on the challenge of observing 7 or 8 days of Passover and is often manifest between different denominations. Be that as it may, there is one ritual that also is observed (but rarely) in mainstream Jewish life. Traditionally we begin to “count the omer” between Passover and Shavuot. And yes, there is even a disagreement as to when that begins based on the controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The omer, a measure of grain offered between Passover and Shavuot, is a ritual tied to the ancient agricultural underpinnings of the Israelites. There is a blessing to be said every day as we “count”, said before the Aleinu from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavuot. “Blessed is Adoni who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to count the Omer. Today is the __day, which is __weeeks and __days of the Omer.
This ritual, which points to the daily “numbering” of days from planting to first harvest, brings to mind again the issue of time. It is amazing that so much of our tradition has something to do with the issue of time. As we have noted many times before, this issue of time becomes so much more important as we get older. We realize that we cannot, no matter what we do, control it. That is why so many of our generation come to the understanding that we no longer take time for granted, and that morning blessing of Modeh Ani, in which we give thanks that we have awoken and been given another day, is so meaningful. There are NO guarantees!
Passover and Shavuot are bookended, so to speak, with another ritual that celebrates time and its passing. Both festivals, as so-called Pilgrimage festivals, include a Yizkor service. Here is a season of the year when we literally mark each day and that period, in a real sense begins with a moment of memory and concludes with the same. How very Jewish: time and memory. That also speaks to us as we age because we also become more aware of what our own legacy may or will be. We begin to focus on our spiritual quotient of life rather than the material.
Time. It remains a mystery, one that we as Jewish celebrate from major festivals, to the Shabbat. Let is not ever take time for granted.
Rabbi Richard F Address