Toward Harvest, part 1 (Beyond 41)

The Jewish calendar places us in several different moments simultaneously. We are just over a week away from Shavuot, our re-experiencing of Sinai; but we are also Behar [at the mountain] already, as we close out the reading of Leviticus in the annual Torah cycle (Behar, Lev 25:1-26:2, & Bechukotai, Lev 26:3-27:34). We have counted five full weeks (and six days) already, and we have ALSO counted 41 days so far — We are commanded (Lev 23:15-16) to count both 50 days and “seven complete weeks.”

We are also, as Rabbi Joel Mosbacher notes in his commentary on this week’s Torah reading, at a precarious moment in history, as well as in the agricultural cycle:

And since these holidays are also connected with the agricultural cycle, the counting of the omer is a time of trepidation—these days of spring will determine whether we have an abundant harvest or not. Will the hard work of planting and tending come to fruition, or will it be wiped away by drought or pests? It is a time of both fear and anticipation….

As we count the years since the great [Civil Rights] movement [of the 1960s] in our own nation, we also wonder if the planting that was done in the civil rights era will come to fruition, if we will reap the harvest of our predecessors’ hard work. Americans are being crushed once again, with violence and economic and racial inequality. We have not yet achieved the magical, transcendent moment of Sinai.
— see “Free At Last?” from T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
See also “Jubilee (Beyond 36)

One theme of this omer journey toward Revelation has been working to ensure that we widen our perspectives so that we can absorb more this year at Sinai than we might have in the past. In yet another aspect to the Jewish calendar, we are coming up on Shabbat, a time to set aside worries, take a “breath,” and celebrate being. And, in the spirit of all of the above, I offer links to “Ackee and Saltfish.”

 from film,

from film, “Ackee and Saltfish”, well worth the £3 ($4.53 US). Watch it now.

Ackee and Saltfish is a short film and webseries that both celebrate precious, ordinary moments between friends and offer an entertaining commentary on issues of diversity and cultural appropriation.

While set in England, the series’ themes are familiar to U.S. viewers. This picture of dismay, as the friends find Olivia’s favorite Jamaican take-out lost to gentrification, might easily be set on Martin Luther King Avenue in DC’s Ward 8 and in other locales across the U.S., as well as in London. Justin Simien, director of Dear White People — a full-length film you should also (re-)see sometime — says on a recent episode of Exhale on Aspire that part of his work is to “debunk the belief that people of color can’t be the everyman.” Cecile Emeke, creator of “Ackee and Saltfish,” brilliantly participates in this work as well.

The first five web episodes, all short and entertaining, are available free of charge (though support is welcomed); the short film is available for small donation ($4.53 or £3). Shared with wishes for Shabbat Shalom, as we close out the week of Yesod [“foundation,” power/(pro-)creativity] —

We counted 41 on the evening of May 14. Tonight, 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.

JourneyOmer

Share this graphic to encourage others to participate.

A Meditation

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 forty-two days which are six weeks in the Omer.
Hayom shnayim v-arba’im yom shehaym shishah shavuot 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.

“Goodbye,” Part 1

Pre-script: The 30 days of National Blog Posting Month are coming to a close, and Temple Micah‘s Siddur Study group is studying the closing blessings of the Amidah [standing] prayer. So a few (OK, quite a few) words on the first of Avodah [worship] blessing. (The version in Mishkan T’filah happens to consist of 30 words.)
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Throne, Heel, and Holidays

And whenever God sits upon His Throne of Glory He immediately thinks of the blue thread of the fringes worn by Israel, and bestows upon them blessings.
— footnote in Soncino edition, Chullin 89a

Does the color sapphire [sapir] somehow remind God of tekhelet [the blue of ritual fringes]? Or are the blues and God’s thoughts linked some other way? Are blessings contingent on the fringes? The process or causality described here is obscure to me. But I think the image can still inform this thread exploring tzitzit and “light” (minor) commandments. The key seems to be the importance of connection.
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Sanctifying the Day

The Torah did not tell a Jew to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Shabbat [as on festivals]. There is no need. On Shabbat the Shekhina [Presence] knocks on the door. All we have to do is let Her in.
— comment on the “Sanctification of the Day” blessing**
Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, p.520

**On Shabbat/Festivals, one “Sanctification of the Day” blessing replaces the middle 13 blessings of the daily Amidah. The first three and the final three remain unchanged: Avot [ancestors], gevurah [strength], Kedushat Hashem [sanctification of the Name]; Avodah [worship], Hodaah [thanks], Shalom [peace]. This gives the Shabbat Amidah a symbolic seven blessings.
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“You set the patterns of the moon”

El Adon and Another Pinchas Addendum


(5) Glory and honor they give to You
glowing praises to Your rule
You call to the sun and it gives forth light
You set the patterns of the moon

(6) You are honored throughout the heavens with songs of glory and praise
[the Seraphim, Ophanim and holy beings ascribe glory and greatness]

Shevach notnim lo kol tz’va marom
[tiferet ugdulah serafim ve’ofanim vechayot hakodesh]

— from “El Adon,” a hymn of Creation
in the Shabbat and Festival morning services
translation from Mishkan T’filah,
[MT inexplicably omits the final (“tiferet“) line]

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Chayei Sarah, Shabbat and Transgender Remembrance

Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 – 25:18), begins:

וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה, מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים–שְׁנֵי, חַיֵּי שָׂרָה
And the life of Sarah was a hundred years and twenty years and seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.

We have not heard from Sarah since Chapter 21, when she asked Abraham to send out the maid-servant Hagar and her child, Ishmael, born to Abraham. Midrash offers many suggestions for what happened to Sarah between that moment and her death, reported here. Avivah Zornberg suggests that Sarah died from an experience of “the reversibility of joy,” in relation to the Akedah [binding of Isaac]. (Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, [JPS, 1995], p. 399)

Without short-changing what Zornberg has to say about Sarah’s life and death — which I recommend everyone read — I thought this single idea of death by “reversibility of joy” worth considering…especially as we enter Shabbat tonight, with Transgender Remembrance Day ahead of us and weeks of turmoil behind us.
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Remember: Ki Teitzei Prayer Links

Abraham Joshua Heschel’s challenge to explore the “soul” of words in our prayers (see last week’s post) suggests consideration of “zakhor [remember],” which occurs several times in the portion Ki Teitzei:

Remember [zakhor] what HASHEM, your God, did to Miriam on the way, when you were leaving Egypt. — Deut./Devarim 24:9

You shall not pervert the judgment of a proselyte or orphan, and you shall not take the garment of a widow as a pledge. You shall remember [v’zakharta] that you were a slave in Egypt, and HASHEM, you God, redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing. — Deut./Devarim 24:17-18

Remember [zakhor] what Amelek did to you on the way when you were leaving Egypt….wipe out the memory [zekher and/or: zakhor] …you shall not forget! — Deut./Devarim 25:17
— all translations from Stone Chumash*

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