Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blog Be'Omer

Counting Up, Counting Down: Are you still counting the Omer? Abq Jew isn't (at least, not with the blessing), but many Jews throughout the world are continuing to count.

What are we counting? Why are we counting? Why isn't Abq Jew counting? One of Abq Jew's most favorite websites - the Homer Calendar - explains:
On the second day of Passover in ancient times, our ancestors brought the first sheaf of barley (amounting to a measure called "an omer") reaped that season as an offering to God.
From that day, they began counting the 49 days to Shavuot, when they would celebrate the beginning of the wheat harvest by offering the loaves made of the first wheat. Even after the Temple was destroyed and offerings were no longer brought, they continued to count the days from Passover to Shavuot in accordance with the biblical injunction.

In this way our ancestors linked Passover and Shavuot as occasions for thanking God for the fruits of the field. We, too, thank God for the renewal of life which nature proclaims at this season.

However, as Passover and Shavuot acquired historical significance, their linkage through the counting of the intervening days took on new meaning. Passover celebrates the liberation from Egypt, and Shavuot celebrates the receiving of Torah at Sinai. By counting the omer, we symbolically connect liberation with the idea of Torah.
That seems clear enough. And you'd think it would be a simple thing, starting on Pesach and counting up the days of the Omer while at the same time counting down the days until we receive the Torah - on Shavuot.

But it's not so simple. People are people, and people sometimes forget. Then what happens? The Homer Calendar explains:

Each evening, while standing, one first recites the blessing for the mitzvah of counting, and then declares the number of days and weeks of the omer count.
Traditionally, if one forgets to count at night (D'oh!), the count may be made the next day without a blessing. One then resumes the regular count that evening.
If, however, one skips an entire day, then Orthodox practice is to continue counting until Shavuot, without the blessing (but see this).
Did you see this? Abq Jew suggests you follow the link - to Forgetting to Count the Omer, an essay by Rav Doniel Schreiber. Here we learn that nothing - nothing - in Judaism is as simple as 1, 2, 3.

For centuries, Jews have thought up ways to keep the Omer count going. The Homer Calendar is one way. Charities send out Omer Calendars each year, with, of course, the suggestion that a donation would be nice.

These days - there are apps for that, like Sefira Reminders Lite. And Omer Alert Services, like

But the 49 days of Counting the Omer are also a time of spiritual introspection and renewal. And for that - there are blogs.


One of the best Omer blogs (who knew there'd be such a category?) is Blog Be'omer.

Blog Be'omer is written by Rabbi Adam J Rosenbaum, who happens to be the former rabbi of  Abq Jew's former Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, New Jersey. But these days, Rabbi Adam is
Rabbi of Synagogue Emanu-El, the Conservative, egalitarian synagogue of Charleston, SC. Husband, father of three, teacher and baseball enthusiast.
Each night during Sefira, Rabbi Adam posts a short Dvar Torah - along with the correct count and the appropriate blessing. Here is Rabbi Adam's post for Day 25:
Day 25: Halfway home

It’s always tough to be in the middle, to feel that we are in the midst of an unresolved journey. And after the week that was, a lack of resolution is most unwelcome. As residents of Boston and its surrounding towns know well, uncertainty may feel like the scariest thing of all.

One of my favorite quotes was said by Rabbi Tarfon in the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): It is not for you to finish the task, nor are you free to abstain from it. As we reach the mid-point in our counting of the Omer, we are reminded that mid-points are not always welcome or comforting, but they are very much part of our human reality, and the fact that we have the power to start and continue that which is most important to us is something we can learn to value.

Another excellent Omer blog is simply called Counting the Omer. Counting the Omer is written by Albuquerque's own Rabbi Min Kantrowitz, and is based upon her recent book of the same title:
Counting the Omer is a Kabbalistic meditation guide to understand the in-depth meanings of each of the forty-nine days between Pesach (Passover) and the Shavuot celebration of the revealing of the Torah.
Rabbi Kantrowitz follows Kabbalistic guidelines to show how the unique values of the sephirot interact each day, giving the reader insight into the strengths of the day. Through this guide the reader is led to meditate on the mystical qualities of life and self.
Each night during Sefira, Rabbi Min posts a short Dvar Torah / meditation. Here is Rabbi Min's 's post for Day 16:
Day 16: Gevurah she b’Tiferet
Discernment within Harmony
Discernment in Gevurah is based on knowing the underlying structures and disciplines upon which to make good judgments. The term ‘halacha’, Jewish law, comes from the Hebrew root “h”"l”"ch” which refers to walking, or ‘the way’. Halacha is the structure which guides decisions and allows people to live together in harmony.

In Navajo tradition, harmony is the natural, balanced state of the world. If a person is ill or if there is trouble in the community, something is assumed to be out of balance. A structured ritual ceremony known as the Blessing Way is performed to restore harmony. Gevurah provides the order that facilitates the return to the natural order of balance, harmony and beauty.

We focus today on the importance of regular practice, of developing structure in our lives which contributes to enjoying a balanced life.

The first 32 days of the Counting of the Omer are traditionally a period of semi- mourning. Which is to say - we don't get haircuts or married.

Rabbi Adam explains (Day 23) the reason why:
They say that, during the 2nd century CE, the great sage Rabbi Akiva taught numerous disciples in defiance of Roman laws forbidding Jewish learning. But the Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 62b) says that included among these disciples were 12,000 pairs of students — 24,000 students in all — who had not yet learned to respect one another and each other’s opinions. So, during the course of the Omer, these students died in a plague.
The plague lifted on Day 33 - Lag (ל״ג) Be'Omer, which is celebrated (this Sunday!) as a day of festivity throughout the Jewish world. Even in Albuquerque!

And even in Santa Fe!

It's only Thursday, but
Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

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