We are not the first generation of Jews to live through periods of great uncertainty. If any group can face tough challenges, it’s us. The Jewish people have flourished by adapting to new circumstances and boldly choosing to walk towards the horizons of possibility and hope with each other and with God. At Temple Beth El, we have chosen to light our darkened world with love by supporting each other. We have chosen to create meaning from ambiguity and to see the blessings and Godliness that abound.
All of us who have been in physical isolation these many weeks know a thing or two about counting. We count the number of days weeks we’ve been in our homes. We count the number of loads of laundry and dishes we have to clean. We count up minutes until the kids go to sleep – so we can get some R&R, too! We count the number of people on our Zoom’s or the amount of time that we will spend in front of our computers.
During the seasons and cycles of the Jewish year, there are rituals that help us to create meaning. The counting of the omer, S’firat HaOmer, is one such ritual. Spanning 49 days, seven weeks, between the second day of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot on May 28th-29th, the S’firat HaOmer is considered to be the number of days between our people’s liberation from Egypt to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. At Passover we celebrate the physical freedom from slavery and oppression and then, we begin counting: 1, 2, 3, 4….all the way to 49. At Shavuot, we celebrate the spiritual freedom that the Torah and the teachings of our tradition give us. These days, all of us are looking towards the promise of physical and spiritual freedom.
So, at this season of counting, I invite you open your hand and “count up” on your fingers. Count up the ways that a loving community can help you feel a sense of belonging and becoming. Count up the ways that Jewish learning can enrich your life. Count up the ways a personal prayer – or song sung in our community – can touch your heart and heal your soul. Count up the ways that the new adventures can open up your mind and spirit. Count up all the ways that you can connect – to those that you love. Count up the ways that your hands can extend kindness and hope. Count up the blessings in your life – big and small. Count up the people that you appreciate and are grateful for.
The coronavirus is a generational history making event. There has been much pain and sadness and suffering. Redemption and liberation and Mount Sinai moments of the past gave our people a sense of resilience, urgency, and courage. We are all traversing new territory, in the wilderness of newness. Our lives have been shaped by the unfolding drama – we have all experienced sorrows and happiness, highs and lows. Our lives have been shaped by the journey that we have shared alone, together. Many have asked me, “Rabbi, how will we find meaning in all of this?” My answer is simple: We will find meaning, when we make meaning. The answer is in the story of our people. Our story is still being written. It is precisely at times like this when we realize the power and importance of community and in writing the story, together.
Here at Temple Beth El, we believe that synagogues are about people. We all need genuine love and embrace. We help each other count the ordinary and small miracles within which we can find lessons of joy, flexibility, and gratitude. We guide and support each other towards fulfilling our dreams and connecting with the Sacred in the everyday. We comfort one another and hold each other up. Belong. Become. Journey and grow. Extend your hand with kindness. Through doing so, we will certainly discover meaning by the ways in which we make meaning.