Toward Harvest, part 2 (Beyond 42)

With the close of this Shabbat, we leave the week of Yesod [“foundation,” power/(pro-)creativity] in this Omer journey away from oppression. We now move into Malkhut [“sovereignty”], the final week in our journey toward Shavuot, celebration of harvest and Revelation.

Leaving Day 42 might also call to mind that ultimately, there are 42 stages in the wilderness journey (see Numbers 33), corresponding to a 42-letter of God. It will also remind some of the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” (…if only we knew the right question).

A Psalm for All the Peoples of the Planet
God, bless us with grace!
Let Your loving Face shine on us!
We want to get to know Your way
here on Earth,
Seeing how Your help is given
to every group of people.
….
Oh, how the various peoples will thank You
All of them will sing, be grateful.

The Earth will give her harvest.
Such blessings come from God, yes from our
God!
— from the Holistic Haggadah, Michael Kagan

We counted 42 on the evening of May 15. 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-three days which are six weeks and one day in the Omer.
Hayom shloshah v-arba’im yom shehaym shishah shavuot 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.

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.

Wanting Memories to Teach Me (Beyond 40)

Contemplating how near we are to Sinai and how much we have yet to learn, Sweet Honey in the Rock’s “Wanting Memories” came to mind.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world
Through my own eyes

I know that I am you and you are me and we are one
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand
I know that I’ve been blessed
Again
and over again

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world
Through my own eyes
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world
Through my own eyes

We counted 40 on the evening of May 13. 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 one days which are five weeks and six days in the Omer.
Hayom echad v-arba’im yom shehaym chamishah shavuot veshishah 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.

(Beyond 39)

“With social media, people were no longer talking. The [contemporary storytelling] movement really began because people missed people. That’s what storytelling does: It connects people.” So Syd Lieberman told Sam Payne of “The Apple Seed” radio program some time back.

After news this week of Syd Lieberman’s passing, the Apple Seed today re-broadcast the conversation as well as some of Syd’s stories.

“As James Bond” from sydleiberman.com

Syd was an internationally acclaimed storyteller, an award-winning teacher, and an author. This photo appears, along with several in far more casual dress, in the “for the press” section of his website, with the caption: “As James Bond.” It seems a fitting companion both to my favorite of his stories — The Wise Shoemaker of Studena — and to the piece on having schnapps with God (below).

Several educational groups suggest The Wise Shoemaker to teach about hospitality — the wise man is not welcomed to a celebration when his clothes are muddy and he’s assumed to be a beggar — a worthy use of the tale. But the point is really about appearances and honoring packaging over substance: “You didn’t want me here at all. You wanted my clothes,” the shoemaker declares when he changes clothes and is welcomed. Available free of charge in audio format — scroll down to “Joseph the Tailor and Other Jewish Tales” — and in print format.

His “A Short Amidah” offers a powerful alternative to the imagery of the Standing Prayer as a kind of royal audience with God:


But what do we really know
of castles and kings?
My kitchen faucet constantly leaks
and the kids’ faces
usually need cleaning.
If a door opened to a real palace,
I’d probably forget
and carry in a load of groceries.


But in that small chamber,
for just a few moments on Sabbath,
God and I can roll up our sleeves,
put some schnapps on the table,
sit down together, and finally talk.
That’s palace enough for me.
— from “A Short Amidah,” by Syd Lieberman
Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim. (Wyncote, PA: The Reconstructionist Press, 1996)

May his memory be for a blessing. And may our journey away from oppression always endeavor to keep people connecting to people.



We counted 39 on the evening of May 12. 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 days which are five weeks and five days in the Omer.
Hayom arba’im yom shehaym chamishah 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.

Six Days to Share… (Beyond 38)

In the section of Leviticus dealing with the festival of Shavuot, we read:

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corner of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleaning of thy harvest; thou shalt leave them for the poor, and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God
וּבְקֻצְרְכֶם אֶת-קְצִיר אַרְצְכֶם, לֹא-תְכַלֶּה פְּאַת שָׂדְךָ בְּקֻצְרֶךָ, וְלֶקֶט קְצִירְךָ, לֹא תְלַקֵּט; לֶעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּעֲזֹב אֹתָם, אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.
Leviticus 23:22, old JPS translation, via Mechon-Mamre

R. Avdimi ben R. Yose said:

Why does Scripture place this precept in the middle of the chapter of festivals? To teach that if someone leaves his gifts for the poor as he is commanded, it is regarded as if he had built the Temple and brought offerings in it.

And Chatam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer, 1762-1839), further taught that Shavuot is only one day, instead of the seven for Passover and Sukkot, because the rest of the week for Shavuot is spent sharing one’s prosperity with the poor.

As Shavuot approaches, we might consider: In the system of thought identifying Shavuot with Revelation — making the holiday about Torah and how we receive it (as well as about the wheat harvest) — what would it mean to extend the holiday for the remainder of the festival week? I.e., what is the “Torah” equivalent of “sharing one’s prosperity with the poor”?

I’ll just leave this question, so as not to prejudice your answer. If you have an idea, please share!




Click here if you’d like to see one suggestion.


We counted 38 on the evening of May 11. 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 thirty-eight days which are five weeks and three days in the Omer.
Hayom shmonah ushloshim yom shehaym chamishah shavuot ushloshah 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.


Six Days to Share…

What if, instead of just sharing “our” prosperity with others, we took six days to really grapple with the underlying problems that affect the earning power and so many other aspects of life for people of color? (Remember, all the produce is really God’s, according to the Torah.)

Many posts in this blog have attempted to move us in this direction. Brave New Films — a media, education, and grassroots organization that “inspires, empowers, motivates, and teaches civic participation” — offers a number of resources of use in this effort. Here, in case you have not yet seen it or want to easily share it with someone else, is a video Brave New Films created to highlight these points

  • Something is wrong when thousands of resumes are mailed to employers with identical information and black-sounding names are 50% less likely to get a call back.
  • Something is wrong when black people are charged prices roughly $700 higher than white people when buying cars.
  • Something is wrong when black drivers are twice as likely to get pulled over by the police and black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than their white counterparts.
  • Something is wrong when black people are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white people.
  • And something is terribly wrong if we stand by and continue to let this happen.



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Jubilee (Beyond 37)


This week’s Torah reading — a double-portion, Behar (Lev 25:1-26:2) and Bechukotai (Lev 26:3-27:34) — includes instructions for conducting the Jubilee, the year of rest for the land, a time to “proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants” (Lev 25:10).

Writing for T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Rabbi Joel Mosbacher notes another injunction in this week’s reading:

When we were enslaved in Egypt, the Torah says, the Egyptians made us serve them b’farech, with crushing labor (Exodus 1:13). This week’s Torah portion demands that, when we enter the promised land, we not rule over others b’farech (Leviticus 25:43).

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.

We should celebrate the legacies of the past—the times when we glimpsed freedom.

But then, we need to get back to work. Our Torah commands it.
— R. Mosbacher, Free At Last?

There may have been moments in the past when we glimpsed freedom. But, as a country, we are stuck with perspectives and behaviors that make freedom for “all inhabitants” an impossibility:

…they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the “help” — and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.

from JFREJ in NYC May 2

from JFREJ in NYC May 2

And I know that these little indignities are obviously nothing compared to what folks across the country are dealing with every single day — those nagging worries that you’re going to get stopped or pulled over for absolutely no reason; the fear that your job application will be overlooked because of the way your name sounds; the agony of sending your kids to schools that may no longer be separate, but are far from equal; the realization that no matter how far you rise in life, how hard you work to be a good person, a good parent, a good citizen — for some folks, it will never be enough.

And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry. It can feel isolating. It can make you feel like your life somehow doesn’t matter — that you’re like the invisible man that Tuskegee grad Ralph Ellison wrote about all those years ago. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, those feelings are real. They’re rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible. And those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country.
— Michelle Obama’s recent speech at Tuskegee Commencement

There is much work to do to bring about the Jubilee. It doesn’t involve protests or petitions. It involves a shift of perspective.



We counted 36 on the evening of May 10. 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 thirty-eight days which are five weeks and three days in the Omer.
Hayom shmonah ushloshim yom shehaym chamishah shavuot ushloshah 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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Reclaiming Mothers Day (Beyond 36)


We are moving through the omer week of Yesod [foundation, creative energy], from the day of Chesed [loving-kindness] to Gevurah [strength]. This seems an auspicious moment to consider efforts to “reclaim Mother’s Day” for radical, life-saving messages:

from #ReclaimMothersDay Twitter feed

from #ReclaimMothersDay Twitter feed

In the spirit of the original Mother’s Day,* activists in St. Louis gathered today to call on others to “join us in demanding an end to systematic oppression wrought by white supremacy in our nation, our schools, and (yes) our churches. (Here’s their “White Mothers We Need to Talk” handout.)

mau_BlackShul

This follows additional actions Millenial Activists United, including a #BlackShul picket on Yom Hashoah. (Here’s the #BlackShul handout >>>)

See also #whitefolkwork, #blackchurch, and #ReclaimMothersDay.


We counted 36 on the evening of May 9. 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 thirty-seven days which are five weeks and two days in the Omer.
Hayom shiv’ah ushloshim yom shehaym chamishah shavuot ushnay 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.

In 1858, Mother’s Day began as a call for peace. (See Zinn Education Project).

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe asked women to “meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead” and advocate for peace.

In 1910, Mother’s Day became a U.S. holiday.
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