I remember as young dad, hanging out with my kids watching Sesame Street. One of my son’s favorite characters was the “Count”. whose job it was to review numbers and teach children how to count to 10. Indeed, one of our favorite cassette tapes for the car (remember those?) was a tape called “The Counts’ Countdown”. I can only image what the Count would do with the tradition of counting the “Omer” each day between Passover and Shavuot. The “omer” is representative of the beginning of the grain harvest in ancient times when a sheaf of barley was reaped and was an offering in the Temple. There was a controversy in tradition as to when you begin this process of counting; after Passover ends or on the 2d day of the festival. Long story short, we count 49 days from the 2d say (April 12) and this counting builds a bridge between Passover and Shavuot, the festival of first harvest. (the 6th of Sivan). There are numerous spiritual interpretations on this ritual and there is a blessing which one says as we count, a blessing which ends with the words who has commanded us “al s’firot ha’omer”or “on the counting of the omer”.
The counting for us Boomers, can also refer to and reflect the awareness of time, a subject that we have written about a lot. The daily counting for 7 weeks helps focus on the importance of each day. This is reflective of a wonderful interpretation of a Deuteronomy 29 in which the word “h a’yom” (the day) is repeated. As we have mentioned before, this motivated the rabbis to see in this interpretation of this word the importance of focusing on each day. This bears repeating again, this reminder, that the only day which we can have a sense of impact on is “this day”. Try as we might, we cannot reply the past and, as much as we may wish, we cannot control the future. Again, that sense of the randomness of existence rears its head. So, we need to be reminded that we are called upon to make each day “count”.
When we awaken each day we are asked to just be reminded of this gift of life that we have been given. “Modeh ani” we say: “I give thanks” that I have been given another day. And so we are asked to make this day count! The idea of counting the “omer” between Passover and Shavuot can serve as a reminder of the importance of each day and the fragile nature of life itself and how much we are subject to the randomness of life. Sobering thoughts? yes. But again the tradition can teach us the value of celebrating life and not allowing our time to be taken for granted. Just a thought for this Shabbat of Passover. I hope that your holiday is sweet and peaceful
Rabbi Richard F Address
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.