We are now a full one fifth of the way through the Omer.
Today throws us the beginning of a curve ball that runs through the middle of the Omer. In addition to this explicitly religious, Temple-oriented 50-day observance, we’re also in a period of the year that brings us all of our modern nationalist holidays. Tonight begins Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Clearly the appearance of Yom Hashoah, Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Yerushalayim during this period are connected to dates on which real historical events occurred. In other words, no one sat down and said, “I think we’ll have all of the modern nationalist holidays during the Omer because….” In other other words, there is no reason these holidays fall during the Omer, but, being Jews, that shouldn’t stop us from inventing meaning.
If the Omer is a journey from Egypt to Israel, then this period of nationalist holidays is a journey from Diaspora to the modern State of Israel. We begin with the Shoah, emblematic of all of the terrible things that befell us in exile. We move then to Israeli independence day, Yom Ha’atzma’ut. After that, we have the recapture of Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim followed by Israeli Memorial Day on Yom Hazikaron.
As for some larger significance, the whole thing makes a lot of sense. The Omer is about our journey to becoming a responsible, free nation. This mini-journey within the Omer is a commemoration of a more recent re-experience of the same journey.