Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Through Affliction to a More Sustainable Life - Omer Day 19

by Andy Oram

Weighed nearly to the ground by bricks, grasping for wisps of straw that were stranded by other desperate slaves, frenzied by rumors that another killing of babies will be ordered--that is one form of oppression.  We can well identify with it today as real wages fall, social supports that used to fill the gap get undercut, and chances to climb out of the pit vanish.

But simultaneous with the oppression of blows and poverty, I must struggle with the oppression of finery. I remember the fine melons, the leeks, the onions. I nearly taste the succulent meat on my tongue. But I must learn the austere life, one in harmony with the Supreme Being who provides me with life.

What I do no realize is that my exile is temporary. My people's future takes us to a land laden with luscious grapes. But not until I am stripped of jewels and adornments. I must become plain again.

Like the Israelites among the Egyptians, modern people have to relearn our construction techniques, our wasteful food consumption, and our relationship to Nature. Otherwise, climate change and environmental degradation will continue leading to the bizarre diseases and harmful unbalances among species that we have seen over the past few decades, a modern series of plagues that never lift.

Living now in the unfathomably wealthy middle class suburbs of the United States, provided with all manner of beeping distractions on which I can write this essay and entertain myself in so many ways, I have to put myself in a radically new mental space to spend even seven days thinking of slavery and deprivation, or forty-nine days in contemplation of my good luck. Only by doing so can I receive the revelation of my relationship to the universe.

What sort of affliction will lead me to revelation? The discipline places heavy demands on me. It is hard to switch to a smaller car, to wait in the dark for a bus, to put on an extra sweater in winter and drench my face regularly so I can do without air conditioning in the summer. But Pesach has made me ready for a life in harmony with the world I live in.

Today is Day 19, which is two weeks and five days of the Omer.
Today is Day 19, which is two weeks and five days of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Andy Oram is a writer and editor at O'Reilly Media, a leading media outlet in the computer field. He is also an activist in the Jewish Climate Action Network as well as other progressive political organizations, and a member of Temple Shir Tikvah of Winchester, Mass. Some of his writings can be found at

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