So, how is the Omer going for you? I managed to bomb this year's count spectacularly only a few days into it. My excuse is irrelevant, I missed a day, and so am not entitled to make the blessing before each count any longer, though I count along with my community all the same.
And so...? You're thinking....
Well, it's strange but it's a loss, a loss of something joyful that I was able to proclaim and do. I typically keep the Omer count, (the period between Pesach and Shavout of 50 days,) and bless and count my way along. It's no great achievement at my age to count to fifty, but it is a wonderful recognition that I'm able to make the time to do so. Or to put it another way, that I have the privilege to do so.
Our lives in America are full of luxury and mine is no exception. If I want a cup of tea or coffee I can make it. I don't have to consider that the leaf or bean has traveled across the globe to be in my kitchen. If I want to study a topic I can search the internet, at my house, on my own computers, in my own library. I am a rich man in this respect, and yet I can not buy back my right to bless before I count. Like spring flowers, the moment is brief and intense and transient, and over again until next year.
Our world has gotten poor for many things, and in particular a regards for our wealth and what it really can buy for us. I read a report in the news that plastic garbage bags and candy wrappers were found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest natural feature on the planet. This is only the third time humans have seen the ocean floor of the Mariana and along with a myriad of wondrous life, they found our wreckage. What did that bag cost to pick up from the bottom of the sea when remembering to not lose it when it was on land seemed too expensive at the time?
Counting the Omer is crossing a desert of time, but Lag B'Omer is coming up. As I write this it is the 13th of May, 2019 an so on the 23rd we will reach an oasis in what is usually described as a time of sadness. Tales have it that Rabbi Akiva's students were hit by a plague, and 24,000 of them died in it, but on Lag B'Omer the plague stopped. The tale says that it was because they didn't respect each other that the plague came upon them.
Will we endure a plague of our own making for our loss of respect for each other and the earth?
It's hard to be on all the time, and I'm certainly not one who can be forever in the moment. But when we reach the 33 day of the Omer and we're taking rest from the sadness, I'd suggest that we plan to do better.
Eternal vigilance belongs to God. ויי לא ינום, ולא יישן
We're only human and have room to grow.
Organize a teaching moment, plan something for Shavout when we stay up all night learning. Make it about the earth and what steps we can take to be more cognizant of what our loss of respect is doing. Speak to disposable culture, talk on workers rights and fair wages, argue over animal husbandry and factory farming. Visit other shuls and temple and synagogues and meet other Jews and come together. Small things lead to big things, good and bad. Plan some small steps in the positive.
Maybe I'll see you at the barbers next Thursday? I'd love to hear what you have in mind.
And next year, we'll be blessing as we count together.