Shabbat (tomorrow), Yizkor (Monday), and the Counting of the Omer

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Those of you who were here at our second-night community seder heard me wax rhapsodic about the counting of the Omer. “Omer” means “measures;” originally it referred to measures of grain, and the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot were a time to count the days until the spring barley harvest when grain would be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering to God. In the rabbinic undertanding, the Omer period became a way of connecting Pesach to Shavuot on a spiritual level. These 49 days take us from liberation to revelation. At Pesach we celebrate freedom from constriction; at Shavuot we celebrate the revelation of Torah and entering into covenant with God.

One popular way of thinking about the Omer period connects each week (and each day within each week) with a different divine quality. This first week is the week of chesed, lovingkindness. What would it feel like to cultivate lovingkindness in our lives this week?

Another popular way of thinking about the Omer period connects each day with a different virtue which is associated with the process of “acquiring Torah,” preparing ourselves for revelation and schooling ourselves in practices which allow our best selves to unfold.

We’ll explore both of these in our Omer spiritual study group which will begin this afternoon. We’ll also explore some of this material in tomorrow’s Torah study after Shabbat morning services. Because it’s still Pesach, we’ll hear a special Pesach Torah reading, and we’ll sing an abbreviated Hallel tomorrow as well.

On Monday — Patriot’s Day — join Rabbi Pam Wax at 9am for a special Passover morning service which will feature Yizkor, the memorial prayers we are blessed to recite four times a year (at Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, Pesach, and Shavuot.) Yizkor is a deep and meaningful practice of remembering our loved ones who have left this world. Please join us.

For those who would like to count the Omer each night at home, you can find the blessings here, and here are two places where you can sign up to receive daily Omer messages via e-mail (offering teachings and intentions relating to each day’s practice — and also a good reminder to count, too!) —  Making the Omer Count and Daily Omer Teaching.

Wishing all of y’all a Shabbat shalom — moadim l’simcha (a joyous festival) — and a meaningful Omer count!

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

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