One of the most popular features on a local newscast of a small TV station is something rather surprising. It is a feature called- “The Day of the Week”. Today is…….. Monday! The station put forth this as a kind of joke at first, but it was so popular that it became a regular daily addition to the morning newscast. Apparently, so many of us have lost track of what day it is that we need a reminder.
During this stay-at-home time, every day seems to blend into the next. It is truly difficult to remember how many days we have all been quarantined at home, what the date is and what day of the week it is. Many of us have a few markers that help- jobs that pause for the weekend, celebrations of Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays- special days of worship. But even with these, the days seem to bleed into each other like a striped shirt washed in hot water.
The period that we are in right now in the Jewish calendar is ironically, a time of counting. A time when we purposely try to keep track of days. Known as the Omer, each day between the second day of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot (49 days) is counted every night. This ritual is simple- a blessing is recited- Blessed are you, Ado-nai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who sanctified us with commandments and commanded us to count the Omer. Then the day is literally counted, Today is the Third day of the Omer.
The word omer means measure. It refers to a bundle of barley that was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient days for sacrifice during this time of the harvest. A bundle was brought each day for the 49 days. We can no longer bring the harvest sacrifice, so instead, we count the days as a reminder of this ritual.
Today, many modern Jews use this time period of counting as a time of reflection, a time to connect to something bigger than ourselves. There are mystical interpretations of the omer counting involving Kabbalistic methodologies, spiritual ones using mindfulness and meditation, and other modern twists trying to add layers of new meaning into an ancient ritual.
I just find it fascinating that at the exact time when my life seems rudderless and the days seem a blur, a ritual with strong anchoring to time and sense of purpose and progress is here for me. I have always tried to observe this ritual in the past, but must admit, some years were more successful than others. However this year, I have made a pledge to myself to commit to the ritual of counting the omer every night.
So far, I am on night 33 (actually a special night), so good. The counting has been calming, cathartic and interesting. Not as transformative as I had hoped, but I still have 16 more days to go.
The counting process has actually reinforced a lesson for me that we all know but often take for granted. That is to make each day count. Now that I am literally COUNTING each day, I do reflect on them more. After I count the day (it is actually the day to come we count), I think about what I hope to accomplish the next day. Even in quarantine there are things we can all do that are helpful and productive- calling people who need to connect, donating food, shopping for someone if you are going out, etc. Am I being productive? Will I take the time to notice the beauty of nature around me, thank the people who should be thanked, be patient and kind when my fuse is feeling short? Counting for me pushes these questions to the surface.
I hope you and your loved ones are well and find ways to make the days count.
Cantor Marcey Wagner
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