Friday, May 8, 2015

Making Our Days Count - Omer Day 35

by Daniel Kieval

If each season of the Jewish year has a particular quality, we could say that these seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot are imbued with the fragility of life. On Pesach we celebrated the birth of our people from Egypt; now we mark its precarious infancy. Like a newborn baby, the new Israelite nation was helpless, depending on God to feed them, protect them, and teach them how to behave in the world. Generations later, this season became a tense time in the nation's agricultural calendar. Spring wind and rain threatened the ripening wheat crop, and the people could only wait and hope for a plentiful harvest.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that this vulnerable season is the backdrop for the ritual of counting the omer. In a time of uncertainty, the practice of counting each day can become an encouragement to stay present rather than be overwhelmed by fears. When we count the omer, every day has a distinct number and a distinct identity; mystical traditions even ascribe a different spiritual consciousness to each of the forty-nine days. In a time when we are keenly aware of the thin line between life and death, we practice seeing the unique special quality of each new day. When things seem most fragile is often when we most appreciate how precious they are.

Today, as we watch the changing behavior of our life-support systems on this planet, we are confronted with the frightening truth of the fragility of life. It's no wonder that we often respond to that truth by pushing it away in denial, or, at the opposite extreme, falling into despair and hopelessness. But instead, we can let it spur us to be radically present in our lives, to bring awareness and gratitude into each moment we have. By counting our days, we can remember to make each day count. As we say in our prayers, "Teach us to number our days, that we may bring wisdom to our hearts" (Psalms 90:12). 

Today is Day 35, which is five weeks of the Omer.
Today is Day 35, which is five weeks of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Daniel Kieval is a Jewish environmental educator living in New York State.

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