Very soon after the Pesach holiday, we take up the Omer or the Sefira–those 49 days we count starting from the second Seder–as we make our way towards Shavuot. This year we won’t visit Shavuoth until early June (8th, 9th and 10th). While yontif it is still a ways off, I am struck by the many festive and commemorative moments that dot the landscape of those 49 days. They are chock-full of opportunities to define oneself Jewishly and individually. For the introspective Kabbalistic type, each day represents the intersection of two Sefirot/emanations from the bottom portion of the Kabbalistic principals, (the Shehina and Tifferet for instance, on one particular day); attributes that we seek to combine in ourselves. For the pious, we remind ourselves that at the exodus from Egypt, we were mired in forty-nine gates of impurity, and each day is an opportunity to perform acts of Jewish affiliation and acts of kindness. For Torah students, the first 33 days are observed with somber seriousness because of the jealousies and lack of respect among students, which led to a terrible plague. For fire enthusiasts and outdoor types, there is Lag Ba’omer and bon fires, which celebrate the end of the sad days, and the celebrative yahrzeit of Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai, a mystic Rabbinic sage in Roman times. Finally, for historically conscious Jews who look to historic moments in shaping Jewish identity, we have Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, all along the 49 day journey. These days mark the milestones of modern Jewish history in the 20th century of the Holocaust and rebirth.
Many Jews may not be aware of this journey, thinking only of the next big day, Yom Kippur, that beckons to them. Yet these days are so very crucial. I once wrote about the sad loss and high profile of Route 66. This highway had everything—glamor, eating joints, hotels and entertainment. But it dried up when the interstate road system was established by Eisenhower. All of that quintessential Americana went the way of the dodo as soon as a nonstop road circumvented Highway 66.
In a sense, that is what the Omer, the counting of days and their observance, means for us Jews. They help define us more deeply each year, historically, philosophically, spiritually, existentially, and we bypass them at our peril. Please avail yourself of the journey of the Omer. It is a rich contribution to your Jewish identity and Jewish experience. Please come to our Yom Hashoah event Wednesday evening, May 1 at 7:00 pm. We have a special cast of actors performing If Shoa Scrolls could Talk. We also begin our special Israel-fest Summer film and falafel nights, beginning onYom Haazmaut at 6:30 pm, which will celebrate the resilient spirit of Israelis in the movie, Rock in the Red Zone. We will have another two films in the course of this time on the way to Yom Yerushalayim, The Cakemaker and Hava Nagilah: The Movie. Keep your eyes on the calendar for those dates and call to RSVP.
Come celebrate these special milestones with your ENJC Community, as we make our way through another eventful annual journey to Shavuoth. You’ll be enriched by it–I guarantee it.