Much of our tradition has to do with counting. We count a quorum for worship, we enumerate our transgressions on Yom Kippur, we even give numbers to the days of the week, rather than naming them after ancient gods and rulers. Of course, at no time do we count more obviously than the days between Pesach and Shavu’ot – the period called sefirat ha’omer.
The practice of counting those forty-nine days is compensatory. In the days of the Temple, the counting was practical. An omer of grain (a small measure) was brought to the Temple in anticipation of the first fruit offerings of Shavu’ot. With the Temple gone, the offerings are gone as well. We can only count and remember.
Still, the numbering of the days keeps alive a consciousness after all these years of a time long past when access to God was more directly connected to Biblical instruction. It was a time when God’s presence could be sought in a particular location, and when the guidance gained from a combination of study and sacrifice would enable the individual and the community to mend the breaches in the world around them.
The second Friday night of each month has been designated Social Justice Shabbat. We feature a speaker on a topic of concern to the community as a whole. Joshua Greene has been most diligent in finding speakers who represent the breadth of concerns and who come with an expertise in their field, as well as a sensitivity to the religious aspects of our endeavor. Since February, speakers have addressed environmental concerns, housing and welfare. Each speaker has given us a chance to consider the issues and find vehicles for involvement in tikkun olam, healing the world. The message of each speaker has been the importance of standing up and being counted.
Similarly, we continue with our schedule of healing services. Though the April service was postponed due to the conflict with the Yom HaShoah observance, our next service on June 10 at 8:00 p.m. will continue the attention to the healing of spirit and body which is so important in our lives. Having a place and time to acknowledge our pain seems to open wider the possibility of appreciating the number of our blessings. It is a vehicle for tikkun atzmi, healing the self.
Counting the omer does not replace the Temple. Hearing about the troubles of the world does not resolve them. Offering our pain does not cure it. But each endeavor makes us aware of the possibilities to close the gaps in this world which separate us from each other, from ourselves and from God. And though other gaps can open, if we close those we discover one by one, we will be amazed, when we count, of all the good we have done.