Reaping the Omer (Beyond 46)

In her book, The Other Talmud, Rabbi Judith Abrams notes that “Nowadays, we count the days of the Omer, but in the days of the Temple, they reaped the omer.”

Let’s give Shavuot the makeover it deserves….

We can transform the Omer counting from the dolorous business it’s become to what it probably was before: a countdown that gets more and more raucous the closer we get to the holiday….It could be a celebration of our history, from biblical times right up to the present.
— Abrams, The Other Talmud: the Yerushalmi, Unlocking the Secrets of the Talmud of Israel for Judaism Today. (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2012), pp. 159-160

These weeks of “Making the Omer Count” have offered thoughts and resources designed to widen our reaping during the omer and our perspectives as we approach Sinai for the giving of the Torah.

Oftentimes, on this journey that makes so clear how much work is still to be done to make the harvest equitable to all, I think rather irritably: Aren’t we there yet?

As we get closer and closer to Shavuot this year, however, I appreciate the vision Judith Abrams presents: A countdown that becomes more raucous with every voice added to it, streets wider and wider as more and more perspectives are added.

If you’re ready….

We counted 46 on the evening of May 19. 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-seven days which are six weeks and five days in the Omer.
Hayom shiv’ah v-arba’im yom shehaym shishah shavuot vechamishah yamim 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.

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“You Didn’t Build That” Ben Zoma Style

“How hard did the first person have to struggle to toil before he could eat a piece of bread: he seeded, plowed, reaped…But I arise in the morning and find all these foods ready for me….How hard did Adam toil before he could put on a garment…How many skilled craftsmen are industrious and rise early to their work. And I arise in the morning and all these things are ready before me.” (Y. Berakhot 9:2)

This musing, part of a longer teaching on gratitude, is found in the Jerusalem Talmud (AKA “Yerushalmi” or “Palestinian Talmud”). It is attributed to ben Zoma. Judith Abrams explains that ben Zoma “had the ability to look at the tiniest of details and learn great things from them.”

Ben Zoma is one of the four who (later, presumably) entered Pardes, the one who “looked” and went mad as a result. It is, in fact, a fine detail that sends him over the edge. In the passage above, however, awareness of details seem to contribute to what Abrams calls “an elevated state of awareness of all the gifts one has while one has them, almost as if he sees everything through a microscope.”

— from The Other Talmud: The Yerushalmi: Unlocking the Secrets of The Talmud of Israel for Judaism Today by Rabbi Judith Z. Abrams (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2012)

Note: The same story appears in the Babylonia Talmud, Berakhot 58a.
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