To steal a line I just learned from the American Reform Rabbi, Rick Block, right now we are in a very meaningful time in the Jewish calendar, which I think can relate to each of our own lives – the Counting of the Omer.
At first blush, this yearly ritual may sound a bit esoteric : the verbal counting of the 49 days between Pesach, which we just recently celebrated, and the festival of Shavuot, which will be in the first week of June this year. But here is some of what it might mean to us.
On Pesach, we are all obligated to see ourselves as having personally gone out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom. After a trek through the wilderness, on Shavuot, we the Jewish people receive the Torah at Mount Sinai – and the obligation to keep it, which comes with that. Sefirat ha-Omer, the counting of the 49 days between this one event and the next, is supposed to spiritually link the two, to prepare us from coming from Egypt to Sinai.
In other words, Pesach is the festival of Freedom, and Shavuot, the receiving of the Torah, is the festival of Obligation. The Counting of the Omer is the bridge or journey between these two poles – Freedom and Obligation.
We live in the tension between these two in our own lives. If we lived lives of all freedom, without commitments, we would not be able to create communities, care for one another; life would be chaos. If we lived lives of all obligation, we would live in a totalitarian world.
So Judaism, especially at this time of Omer, asks us to reflect and to choose – to live lives of both commitment and free choice, both to care for our society, our religious community, our families, our friends and to make individual and free choices for ourselves.
May you have a reflective Sefirat Ha-Omer,