With the close of Shabbat and the end of Passover, we move into the “gevurah [strength, boundaries]” week of the omer, on our journey away from oppression.
In the spirit of gevurah as strength, I suggest we begin this week by honoring the strength of individuals of color, persevering in a society that too often sees them in ways that do not celebrate their humanity. In the spirit of gevurah as boundaries, I suggest we begin this week by honoring the many different routes such perseverance can take.
At the close of Shabbat, we mark the division of holy and mundane, and Rabbi Jonathan Saks says:
By inviting human beings to engage in Havdala [dividing] at the end of Shabbat, God invites us to create worlds. Creation involves the ability to make distinctions, to rescue order from chaos, to respect the integrity of creation….The message of Havdala is: if we respect the integrity of boundaries, we can turn chaos into order, darkness into light.
— commentary to Havdala prayer, p. 726 Koren Saks Siddur
In addition, R. Saks teaches that the moment of lighting a candle to mark the transition from Shabbat to the weekdays also recalls the exile of Eve and Adam from Eden and how God showed them how to make light, so that they could become partners in the on-going work of creation.
Letting go of Shabbat is a moment of deep realization that the world is still imperfect and that we have work to do. But it is also a moment of special yearning and hope, as we breathe in the spices to fortifying us for the week’s work ahead. Havdala, and the going out of Shabbat, is thus a great time for considering strength and boundaries.
Imperfection and Hope
As mentioned in yesterday’s note, here are the remarks of Aaron Goggans at the Jews United for Justice Chanukah Action program in December 2014, which speak to imperfection and hope, as well as strength and boundaries:
I didn’t choose [love] because it was easy
I chose it because I knew that hate or apathy would tear me apart
In that love I can hope. In essence, I am human.
In that love the the pain doesn’t go away completely,
in that love their hate isn’t vanquished,
the oppression doesn’t case, the killing doesn’t stop.
I know that my love is not magical.
My commitment to see the humanity in others allows us to work together.
Watering the seeds of justice planted before me
gives me the clarity to plant my own.
I will love despite all of my rage because it’s the most politically radical act…
I promise that I will never stop seeing your humanity;
I promise that I will not allow you to deny mine….
…if we as a nation cannot agree on the simple fact that Black lives matter,
we can never heal the festering sore that is one of our nation’s foundational sins
Because I choose to love my fellow Black people,
I will no longer allow this infection to be contained in black bodies.
No longer will black people be the ones who bear the weight of their oppression.
No longer will we let the tonnage of White racism sit on our chest,
crushing us slowly while we pretend it is not there
If this movement is anything it is based on the belief that
all of you can and must do better
If we can’t breathe, you can’t either
Get off the fence and join the struggle
— Remarks of Aaron Goggans,
Jews United for Justice Chanukah Action,
Dec 16, 2014
We counted 7 on the evening of April 10. On Saturday night, we count….
Making the Omer Count
from On the Road to Knowing: A Journey Away from Oppression
A key element in the journey from liberation to revelation is understanding the workings of oppression, and our part in them. We cannot work effectively to end what we do not comprehend.
So this year, moving from Passover to Shavuot, I commit to learning more about how oppression works and how liberation is accomplished. I invite others to join me:
Let’s work together, as we count the Omer, to make this Omer count.
Thoughts and sources welcome.
Share this graphic to encourage others to participate.
Aware that we are on a journey toward knowing God — from liberation to revelation — I undertake to know more today than I did yesterday about the workings of oppression.
I bless and count [full Hebrew blessings in feminine and masculine address]:
Blessed are You, God, Ruler/Spirit of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.
Today is eight days which are one week and one day in the Omer.
Hayom shmonah yamim shehaym shavuah echad veyom echad la-omer.
In the spirit of the Exodus, I pray for the release of all whose bodies and spirits remain captive, and pledge my own hands to help effect that liberation.