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.”
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.
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.
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.