Keep on Counting

    05.28.24 | Stories, News

    Right now, Jews around the world are counting: Counting the Omer. In the Jewish calendar, the 49-days between Passover, our freedom from slavery, and Shavuot, when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, is called the Omer. Each year, every one of these 49 days is counted, creating a journey from physical redemption to spiritual redemption and making time for self-reflection and somber contemplation. Yet, the midst of this spiritual journey, on the 33rd day, we are given a break. And so, this past weekend, Jews worldwide (and especially in Israel) took a joyful break to celebrate Lag Ba’Omer, which literally translates to the 33rd day of the Omer, with bonfires and picnics to celebrate our connection to Judaism, Israel, and each other.  

    Jewish tradition ascribes a few possible reasons to mark Lag Ba'Omer with joy -- from the end of a plague that killed thousands of the great sage Rabbi Akiva's students, to a victory in the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome, to honoring the yartzheit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Jewish mystic and disciple of Rabbi Akiva. Today, Lag Ba'Omer reminds us of the Jewish people's enduring strength and resilience, overcoming centuries of persecution and adversity to establish and defend the state of Israel.

    As we return to counting the Omer, we pray for peace in Israel and the safe return of the remaining hostages (June 8 will mark 8 months of captivity). We reflect on these words from Rabbi bar Yochai found in the the Zohar, the central work of Jewish mysticism: "Weeping is lodged on one side of the heart, and joy is lodged on the other." Let's draw strength from both the the sorrow and the joy to stand against hatred and in defense of our right to exist in peace. Together, we can transform our collective pain into a force for compassion, resilience, and unwavering hope for a brighter Jewish future.  In fact, we’re counting on it.

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