Archive | April, 2008


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.

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We’re now over one seventh of the way through the Omer!

Today’s Omer-related inteligibility comes from the blog of Rivy Poupko Kletenik, All Things Jewish.

The article addresses the idea of making the seder more gender-inclusive without adding extraneous foods to the seder plate and symbols to the seder table. What follows is the intro paragraph to the article. I encourage everyone to check out the rest of the article.

On one hand the placing of the orange on the Seder Plate arose as a way of making an important statement, “all Jews have a place at the table.” Miriam’s Cup filled with water tells the story of her song, her well and her role in the Exodus. Both of these are important nuances and messages for Seder night. However, on the other hand my first reaction is to recoil at a practice that changes the essential “look” of the traditional Seder Plate or Seder table. I guess this is an instance where my feminism collides with my deep sense of tradition. At Pesach time I am very attached to the notion that the table and the traditions continue to look the same.

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We continue with day 8 of the Omer.

So we’re back with stuff from Rabbi Jill Jacobs today. It comes today not from My Jewish Learning, but from Read something I agree with.

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50 is coming. I can feel it.

Yesterday, in services we read Shir Hashirim, The Song of Songs, yesterday. The presence of this text in the Tanach seems an ongoing mystery. Arguably, the greatest, most epic love poem ever written, we traditionally pass it off as a metaphor for our loving relationship with God. I don’t doubt that this was NOT the intent of the author, but I have no problem with passing it off as such.

Where has your beloved gone, O you most beautiful among women? where has your beloved turned? that we may seek him with you.

My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies.

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine; he pastures his flock among the lilies.

You are beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners.

Turn away your eyes from me, for they have overcome me; your hair is like a flock of goats sliding down from Gilead.

Your teeth are like a flock of sheep which have come up from the washing, all of them bear twins, and there is not one bereaved among them.

Like a piece of a pomegranate are your cheeks behind our veil.

There are sixty queens, and eighty concubines, and maidens without number.

My dove, my perfect one, is only one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bore her. The maidens saw her, and called her happy; the queens and the concubines praised her.

Who is she that looks forth like the dawn, beautiful like the moon, bright like the sun, and awesome like an army with banners?I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see if the vine had blossomed, to see if the pomegranates were in bloom.

Without my knowing it, my soul set me among the chariots of a princely people.

Another mystery: Why do we read this during Pesach? I have an idea. We are now, in this annual cycle of reliving history, a people recently reclaimed by our God. Our love, like the spring, is renewed. We are in a 50-day approach to Har Sinai, where we will sign our Ketubah with God in the giving of Torah. This love poetry is all part of our courtship of God and God’s courtship of us.

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Wow! Only forty-some-odd days left!

Again, Rabbi Jill Jacobs and My Jewish Learning:

The counting of the omer begins on the second night of Pesach. Jews in the Diaspora generally integrate this counting into the second seder.

The omer is counted each evening after sundown. The counting of the omer is generally appended to the end of Ma’ariv (the evening service), as well.

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Onward! From redemption to revelation!

Again, Rabbi Jill Jacobs and My Jewish Learning:

While Pesach celebrates the initial liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, Shavuot marks the culmination of the process of liberation, when the Jews became an autonomous community with their own laws and standards. Counting up to Shavuot reminds us of this process of moving from a slave mentality to a more liberated one.

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And so the Omer marches on with day 4.

Again, Rabbi Jill Jacobs and My Jewish Learning:

In its biblical context, this counting appears only to connect the first grain offering to the offering made at the peak of the harvest. As the holiday of Shavuot became associated with the giving of the Torah, and not only with a celebration of agricultural bounty, the omer period began to symbolize the thematic link between Peach and Shavuot.

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Today continues my uphill battle to do a simple ritual for 49 days. I can smell the impending failure. I almost forgot tonight.

Today’s intelligibility comes again from Rabbi Jill Jacobs and My Jewish Learning.

The Torah itself dictates the counting of the seven weeks following Pesach:

“You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God (Leviticus 23:15-16).”

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I am going to attempt–watch this fail miserably–to also post something intelligible about the season for the reamining 48 days of counting. Right.

Today’s intelligibility comes from Rabbi Jill Jacobs and My Jewish Learning.

The omer refers to the forty-nine day period between the second night of Passover (Pesach) and the holiday of Shavuot. This period marks the beginning of the barley harvest when, in ancient times, Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking God for the harvest. The word omer literally means “sheaf” and refers to these early offerings.

On this beautiful second day of the Omer, I’m introducing something new to my online count. I’ll be adding every day the artwork of Pauline Frankenberg, who has illustrated the brachah for counting the Omer as well as illustrating all 50 daily announcements of the count, each one illuminated with a depiction of a plant mentioned in the Tanach.

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These last two nights we were born as a child-nation, emerging from the narrowness of Mitzraim, Egypt, where we gestated. And over the next 50 days, as we do every year, we will mature. And upon maturing, 50 days from now, God will reveal to us the laws that have made a complete nation and have made us the only ancient near eastern state religion to survive, with relevance, into modernity.

I want to count the Omer this year, but I’ve demonstrated to myself multiple times that daily prayer doesn’t quite happen for me, so this year I’ll be attempting to count the Omer here, on this blog.

ט”ז בניסן, א’ של חול המעוד

היום יומ אחד לעמר

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