It is 50 days from the beginning of Passover until Shavuot. The first holiday marks our redemption for slavery and the second holiday marks our receipt of the gift of Torah at Mount Sinai. Starting on the Second night of Passover (near the end of the Seder), and for a total of 49 days, each evening, we Count the Omer, until we reach Shavuot. (An Omer is a measure of grain, in this case barley. The Torah actually required that an Omer of barley be brought to the Temple on the second day of Passover).
The question is posed as to why we did not receive the Torah as soon as we left Egypt. One answer is that our ancestors simply were not ready to receive it at that moment; they were, for all intents and purposes, still slaves, with slave mentalities. It was better to allow some separation from Egypt before bestowing a gift of such importance.
Waiting to put some time and distance between slavery and the receipt of Torah is a nice thought, but why count the Omer each day? Answering this question is a bit more challenging. One answer is that it forces us to check in with ourselves every day for at leas the few minutes it takes us to say: “Today is the XX day in the counting of the Omer.” Thus, by force of the ritual, we can consider what kind of day it was and, perhaps, think about our hopes for the next day.
Another reason may be that to receive the whole Torah in one day would be too much stimulation. By counting for 49 days, we receive a little piece of the Torah each day that we count.
Whatever the reasons may be for counting, it provides us with a good time to reflect a bit on our JCC community. Throughout the pandemic we have been, and will continue to be, busy. You will be hard pressed to find a congregation of our size doing as much as we are doing. From classes to programs to services we have been active.
For this we owe many thanks to the JCC Board, and its many committees. Each person involved has wanted to make sure that we are here for the community in multiple ways. Read the Shabbat Reminder to keep up with what we are doing. Go to the Website and browse it. Finally, and this is important, reach out to me or to any board member with thoughts and ideas.
DO NOT FORGET: Saturday and Sunday are the last two days of Passover. On Sunday we will be having our Yizkor service. (Services begin at 10:00 and Yizkor should be around 11:15). Yizkor provides us with an opportunity to remember loved ones whom we have lost. Remember to light the Yahrtzeit Candle just before holiday candles are lit on Saturday evening, April 3rd.
Shabbat Shalom and Moadim L’Simcha – Rabbi Michael S. Jay