Counting the Omer- Day 19
Today I had the honer of preparing a little video and teaching on the occasion of the counting of the Omer. A tradition we Jews do between Pesach and Shavout.
We count 49 days, symbolic of ancestors as they travelled from Egypt (Pesach or Passover) and Shavuot — the festival celebrating our receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This event being at the foundation of our development from Hebrews to the Jewish people.
The Video is here. Counting the Omer-day 19
Following is the transcript
Good evening. I’m honored to have been asked to count the Omer with you this evening.
Today is the 19th day which is two weeks and five days of the Omer
I’d like talk to a quote from the Pirkei Avot, the Sayings of the Fathers. The quote comes from Chapter 1, verse 18.
רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַדִּין וְעַל הָאֱמֶת וְעַל הַשָּׁלוֹם
“Rabbi Simon ben Gamaliel taught:
The whole world rests on three things: Ha din, Ha Emet, Ha Shalom.”
This has been an interesting week for us in Minnesota. Interesting in the manner of the proverbial curse that says “May you live in interesting times”. I now know what that means.
We find ourselves, once again, as seemingly unprepared actors on a global stage in the cause of justice.
Easy for us to say to our friends and family especially those who live in other places that here in the Twin Cities we can’t seem to catch a break. Between the Derek Chauvin trial downtown, and the killing of Daunte Wright on Sunday, the protests, the unrest in our streets.
I believe that while we have may be close in proximity to where these events took place, these are not Minnesota events. The impact and scope of the issues that have been laid bare here, have real ramifications and affect across our entire country, and in many place around the world.
We Jews we are in our season of reflection and growth. The season of the counting of the Omer. Every night we recount the steps our ancestors took from the night they left Egypt. They left as Hebrews, as slaves escaping bondage, with nothing except what they could carry on their back and united by only a tribal connection to each other. In just 30 short nights, we shall arrive at Mount Sinai where once again shall receive the Torah, and in so doing become Am Yisrael, the People of Israel.
I happen to be a person who takes great comfort in the teachings of our Torah and in the words of our Rabbis, both our ancient sages, also of course, the contemporary rabbi’s in our lives today.
Shout out to the Rabbis!
The events here on our state have exposed, or rather re-exposed an issue that has a history that exists as long as we have been human. This issue of justice, and it’s inconsistent application across the members of our society.
The idea that once again, as a nation and a society we are struggling with Justice bemoans this reality. In our nation, some people are more equal than others.
As a Jew I am enormously proud of our tradition about the pursuit of justice, it is a central Tennant of our faith.
From Talmudic times, our Rabbis have thought that pursuit of Justice is incumbent on every one of us.
This pursuit is not just some abstract concept for us to think about for a few minutes and then move on to something else. The work of Justice is tangible and, as we like to say in the business world measurable and accountable. It central to the idea of Tikun Olam- our responsibility as Jews to serve as a partner with G-d in the repair of creation.
In the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 54B there is an exchanged attributed to Rav and Rabbi Hanina, and Rabbi Yohanan, And it was summarized this way:
“Anyone who had the capability to effectively protest the sinful conduct of the members of his household and did not protest, he himself is apprehended for the sins of the members of his household and punished. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the people of his town, and he fails to do so, he is apprehended for the sins of the people of his town. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the whole world, and he fails to do so, he is apprehended for the sins of the whole world.”
1800 years ago our Rabbi’s understood the importance for Jews to be vigilant about justice. To use the Hebrew word in the text “Shomer”, Guardians. We are to be on guard by not standing by when our families, when people in our community or the entire world commits acts of sin. Whenever we see it, wherever and when it is our purview to have a voice.
Today, in my opinion, this means not keeping silent in our communities when we see or understand the issues of injustice, regardless of where they occur and which communities they affect. It means taking a position and using our voices as instruments of change. To have an opinion and make it known. As guy with introverted tendencies, this ain’t easy. It’s difficult and uncomfortable and it is certainly way out of my comfort zone. As a Jew, however, I am compelled to do so.
There is a Midrash that I like a lot on this subject.
It comes from Devarim Rabbah, or Deuteronomy Rabbah 5:4:
“Rabbi Yitzak said, two things are in the hands of G-d: The Soul and Justice.
In Job 12:10 it is written “In G-d’s hand is every living soul”.
In Devarim, Deuteromomy 32:41 “My hand lays hold on judgment”
The Holy One has said the soul and the law are in my hands. Stand guard for Justice, and I will stand guard for your souls.”
אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְהַדִּין נְתוּנִים בְּיָדִי, שִׁמְרוּ אֶת הַדִּין וַאֲנִי אֶשְׁמֹר נַפְשׁוֹתֵיכֶם, הֱוֵי שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים.
Thank you for joining me tonight, this is just one step on our journey to Sinai, and I hope in some small way I provided some inspiration from our sages and our tradition about how to think about the events that affecting us here at home, so deeply.
I also hope that this has helped to reinforce the direct connection between the journey our ancestors took 3,333 years ago this year, and the journey we are all on today, during this season of counting the Omer
I leave you with one of the more common quotes from Devarim, 16:20. It says it all in 5 words.
“Justice, Justice you shall pursue”