This particular Omer journey was designed to move from Oppression — a place where Pharaoh does not know his own past and Israel and God have yet to honeymoon — through learning more about oppression and liberation to Sinai. The goal was to “reach Sinai more able to hear divine values, serve God’s liberation work.”
I was reminded by my study partner, Amy Brookman, this afternoon that Martin Buber describes Sinai as a “lowly” kind of place — not unlike the thorn bush where Moses met God earlier in the Exodus story. We learn from this that humility is absolutely key in gaining anything from Sinai.
We learn, too, from the Sinai narrative that communicating (with God) is not a simple or straightforward matter. Moreover, I believe we learned on this journey that communicating about racism and related issues is difficult: To really learn anything new about oppression and how it works in general, and how it is affecting people today, means letting go of old (probably more comfortable) perspectives. And that means experiencing some sense of loss and pain.
Amy also shared a piece of Torah from Gilah Langner, “Revisiting the Ten Commandments” (From Kerem 13):
The midrash tells us: God sent along two angels to each and every Israelite, one to lay a hand upon the heart to keep body and soul together, and the other to lift up the head of each Israelite to behold God.
It’s a beautiful image, especially if you like angels. But set aside the
angels for a moment, and notice that the midrash is keying in on the life-and-death quality of Sinai.
Who Counts 50?
I suggest we take these these thoughts with us as we enter the holiday of Shavuot:
1) humility to hear,
2) the challenge of real communication, with associated loss and pain,
3) the life-and-death quality of this communication.
I’ll add, too, a commentary relayed to Fabrangen West by David Blumenstein this month: We are told both to count 50 days and to count seven full weeks. We carefully count the 49 days and seven weeks, but what about that last day? That, midrash [sorry citation missing], suggests is counted by God.
So I close this 49-day journey with a prayer:
May what we have learned so far on this 49-day/seven-week journey bring us to where we need to be, individually and collectively, so that God can count in that last day. And may the angels holding us up give us strength to risk serious communication, with one another and with God.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach
We counted 48 on the evening of May 21. 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.
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 forty-nine days which are seven weeks in the Omer.
Hayom tish’ah v-arba’im yom shehaym shiv’ah 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.
God expresses concern that divine communication with “break forth upon them [פֶּן-יִפְרֹץ בָּהֶם יְהוָה]” (Exodus 19:22).
Even the priests have to exercise caution lest “[THE NAME] break forth upon them [אֶל-יְהוָה–פֶּן-יִפְרָץ-בָּם] (Exodus 19:24).
When God has already “said” the Ten Commandments, THEN we learn 1) that the People perceived a jumble and want Moses to speak with God in their stead, and 2) that God “already spoke to you [plural] דִּבַּרְתִּי עִמָּכֶם.”
And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the horn, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses: ‘Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ And Moses said unto the people: ‘Fear not; for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before you, that ye sin not.’ And the people stood afar off; but Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. And the LORD said unto Moses: Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel: Ye yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
— Exodus 20:14-18