I cannot begin this note without first expressing my profound gratitude for this past weekend’s events. I appreciate so much those who spoke so beautifully on Friday evening, those who were involved in the oneg that evening, and of those who put together such a wonderful gala! On Friday, the sacredness this place could be felt and, on Saturday, our sanctuary was transformed into an elegant venue for a sophisticated celebration! I hope that everyone in attendance felt the love and joy that Barrie and I felt.
As we move forward towards the summer, we will be joining together this next Friday, May 4, to observe the ancient celebration of Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer. An “Omer” was, in Biblical times, an ancient measure of grain. The Counting of the Omer comes from Leviticus 23:15: “And from the day on which you bring the offering…you shall count off seven weeks.” When the Temple was destroyed, the Counting of the Omer became a time of deep reflection. It is a mitzvah to “count” the days between Passover and Shavuot and on each day think about how we can live our lives, look back, and look forward. There are many reasons to count the Omer but the most popular of the understandings is that our counting echoes the days before Shavuot, the days before the Torah was presented to the Israelites as they waited at the base of Mount Sinai. According to Midrash, it was a time of transformation from slaves, to a free people, to a holy people, and we have the opportunity each year to live those days and transform again throughout all the 49 days of the Omer.
Lag B’Omer is a break from reflection and solemn thought, and a time of celebration and joy. The origins of Lag B’Omer are disputed, but most believe that they were born at the time of the Bar Kochba rebellion against Rome in 132 CE. Though the Bar Kochba revolt failed, Lag B’Omer possibly originated from a momentary victory in battle against Rome. Bonfires are lit, and songs are sung around the campfire to show joy in our ancestors’ fight against oppression, and the light the rabbis of the time brought into the world.
We hope that this Lag B’Omer, you will take a break from your days at work and stress and come sit by the fire, and enjoy music, warmth, and s’mores with our community. I can think of no better way to celebrate the first Shabbat after our installation weekend than an informal musical Shabbat around a fire-pit! See you then!