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Just a few days ago, we passed the half-way point between Passover and Shavuot. There’s a 49-day bridge connecting
these important holidays. In ancient Temple times, the Omer rituals expressed the gratitude of the farmer who brought a
measure of barley for the Kohen, who would wave this offering before God. All of that symbolism melted away in the year 70
CE, the year the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. Still, as you know, we count the Omer with a blessing acknowledging
this mitzvah of counting. So, what might it mean to us now?
There’s another text in the Torah (Exodus chapter 16) which mentions Omer in connection with the manna, that miraculous
food from heaven which fed our ancestors during the wilderness trek. In addition to sustaining the people, God was teaching
them what trust is all about. Each person had just enough for their daily needs. Because manna had no shelf-life, God warned
the people not to store any manna from one day to the next. The Israelites who ignored the warning found rotten, inedible
manna awaiting them the next morning.
There’s a powerful lesson here for us today. We hoard things, we become obsessive about acquiring stuff. We struggle with
the notion of trusting each other, of trusting God. Trusting acknowledges something much bigger than ourselves. The
seven-week gesture of pausing to count can be a powerful way of slowing down and hitting the pause button, considering who
we are, where we’re going, what we’re doing — some basic inventory in the midst of time flying by all too quickly.
If Passover is about liberation and Shavuot is about Covenant, these 49 days can become a vehicle for mindfulness: What is
the “Egypt, the Mitzrayim”, the narrowness within my mind with which I struggle to break free? What do I think about a
Covenant with my fellow Jews, with God, with humanity, with the life that surrounds me? What sort of commitments bind me, hold me to account as a person who is journeying through a life, assembling bits and pieces to make meaning, to do something more than breathing in and out, something more than chasing after stuff, something more…
When my kids were little, we added Omer-counting into the nightly Sh’ma ritual. The years have flown by. And here we are,
in the midst of counting. Pause: What are the things that count? The journey is much more than right foot, left foot, over and
over. What are the days in between all about? What opportunities might I be overlooking? Count tonight and the next and the next. Seize the Day. Engage.