Friday, April 29, 2016
From Rabbi Peter Stein
Pesach is a special holiday, with many beautiful traditions and different lessons. Pesach is also the beginning of an important period in the Jewish year. After the first day of Passover, we start the count of the Omer, the seven week period that culminates with Shavuot. Shavuot is the holiday that remembers the momentous events at Mt. Sinai, the giving of the Ten Commandments and the sealing the covenant between God and the Jewish people. In our own tradition, it is also when we celebrate Confirmation and the great achievements of our young adults.
Each day during the Omer, we make a blessing (Blessed is God, who commands us regarding the Counting of the Omer) and declare how many days we have reached in the Omer. This is done each day for the 50 days. It is a wonderful discipline to make the blessing and reflect on the passage of time.
Today, there are many different resources to enrich our count of the Omer. There are apps and online counters. There are also beautiful books written with daily meditations for this season.
There is another resource, an ancient one, which can be used during the Omer. It is traditional to read and study Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Ancestors, during this period. There are six chapters in Pirke Avot, so it works out well to read one chapter each week.
Pirke Avot is part of the Mishnah, the very first collection of rabbinic teachings. It contains a variety of short sayings and teachings about ethics and morality. One of my favorites comes from
Rabbi Akiva: How greatly God must have loved us to create us in the Divine Image; yet even greater love did God show us in making us conscious that we are created in the Divine Image. (Pirke Avot 3:18)
As the days and weeks pass till we stand again at Sinai, may we be blessed to find meaning and blessing in each and every day. May we rejoice in God’s presence in every fiber of our being.