There is something powerful about the simple act of counting. It leads one to believe that we are counting down to something good, and as we count the Omer, we certainly are. We move from Passover to Shavuot and the day we received the Torah. And while there is mourning and hard lessons to learn in between, once we get to that holy day, it all makes sense. It defines who we are as Jews. Tomorrow is Lag B’omer, which occurs on the 33rd day of the Omer. It is a “break from the semi-mourning of the Omer… and is the one day during the Omer when Jewish law permits” weddings during this period, as well as “lighting bonfires and getting haircuts.”
So why is there mourning during the period of the Omer?
“… the most often cited explanation for the Jewish practice comes from the Talmud, which tells us that during this season a plague killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva‘s students because they did not treat one another respectfully. The mourning behavior is presumably in memory of those students and their severe punishment.”
– Francine Klagsbrun, My Jewish Learning (https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/lag-baomer/)
While I do not discount these horrible things, nor the tremendously painful path it took for us to get out of Egypt and to the Torah, I do personally believe that this is a time to also count blessings. As I use the wonderful OmerCounter app from Chabad, I get words of wisdom and insight from Rabbi Tzvi Freeman and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Each night there is a remarkable lesson… short and sweet and to the heart and soul of the matter.
It is easy to get distracted by the news, which seems to be dominated by tragedy, natural and man made. It is easy to get depressed over the divide our nation finds itself in, even within our community. So we can dwell on this, or shut it off a bit, and look towards the sun, hear the birds chirping and realize how amazing and awe-filled Hashem is.While it is not always easy, when we say the Bedtime Shema, we forgive all those who hurt us. How much more powerful would it be if we send those who broke our hearts back out into the world with love instead of anger? With thanks and gratitude instead of sorrow? Again, it is not easy. It’s just not. But let’s all try it. As the recent recipient of a shattered heart I am trying to do just that.
And as we count the Omer each night, let us also count our blessings. Let us truly see all that Hashem has given us. When we actually open up our minds and hearts, it is amazing what we actually see… and most of it has been there all along.
I wish you all a most pleasant journey out of Egypt… a most peaceful path counting the Omer on our way to an incredible day AND NIGHT filled with joy and learning and yes, cheesecake. I wish that we all may be able to see the joys in the world and to count each and every blessing we have. The more we count, the more humble we become. Instead of anger and sorrow, our hearts and souls and minds will be filled with incredible gratitude and a true connection to Hashem.
So count, my friends… Let us all count the Omer and let us all count our blessings.