Tuesday, March 26, 2013

See You At The Top - Counting The Omer

For many Jews, the 2nd night of Passover begins the tradition of Sefirat Ha-Omer, the Counting of the Omer.  It's the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot.  The practice of Sefirat Ha-Omer has its roots in Jewish agricultural history: Passover saw the beginning of the barley harvest, and at Shavuot, it concluded. On the 2nd day of Passover, the 1st sheaf of a barley harvest was given as a gift to God. With this gift, the worshiper also offered matzah. Then, each day was counted off, one by one, until Shavuot. On Shavuot, they brought 2 loaves of leavened bread as a sacrifice. Matzah and bread are made from the same ingredients, but they end up differently. We don't show patience with matzah, and therefore, it is not complete. With leavened bread it is different. With bread, we have to show a different kind of care and time. Bread is the finished product. Freedom.

The Rabbis of ancient days explain that the Israelites had hoped to receive the Torah immediately after crossing the Red Sea. After all, they had just left Egypt. But, they were living in Egypt for so many years that they had suffered tremendous spiritual damage. They were not yet ready to accept the gift of Torah. So, we would need to count 49 days, each day we would rise a level from the lowest level of impurity, thereby preparing to greet the Almighty on the 50th day. Each day we would rise one level higher than the day before, all the way up to the highest level, and the opportunity to receive the gift of Torah.

This year, as we move from Passover to Shavuot, let us count up the mountain together. The message of the Omer can remind us about anticipation and patience, and also making sure that everyone is counted. We should all try to make our count more meaningful as we enter this season....and I'll see you at the top.

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