I must admit, I am excited about the prospect of a week where we finally experience weather that stays above freezing. I was able to be outside for a couple of hours yesterday soaking in some much-needed sun. My kids were ready to break out their swim suits and take a dip in the kiddie pool. The only problem I have with this warm up is the impending seasonal allergy bouts that follow. I need to remember to stock up on Allegra and Benadryl or I’ll be miserable for weeks. I feel itchy all over, from my eyes and throat to my hands and legs. I feel the uneasy sensation of “cloudiness” in my head, not to mention being stuffed up. I can’t get to summer soon enough sometimes.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Danny is discussing itchiness, didn’t we study Tazria-Metzora a couple of weeks ago?” Yes, in fact we did and this week we are studying Parsha Emor. Nowhere in the parsha is there any discussion about itchiness or allergies for that matter. The concept of allergies was not introduced until 1906 by Dr. Clemens von Pirquet, who noted that some of his patients were hypersensitive to normally innocuous entities such as pollen and certain foods. However, Emor discusses time, and to be more specific, the timing of holidays and festivals. Shabbat, Pesach, the counting of the Omer, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot are all given set times for observation. Interestingly, the counting of the Omer is the only thing on the list which is not really a holy day or festival. The Omer (barley sheaf) refers to the offering brought to the Temple on the second day of Pesach. Starting from that day, the Torah also instructs that “you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week — 50 days,” (Leviticus 23:15-16). The festival Shavuot is observed on the 50th day when we commemorate receiving the Torah at Sinai. In preparation to receive the Torah, we work to become better Jews. The Kabbalists point out that the Omer is counted for seven weeks of seven days, and they match them with the seven sefirot (traits) through which God interacts with the world. Each of the seven days within those weeks are matched with the sefirot and those various permutations of Godliness provide an opportunity for study and self-improvement. Another tradition is to read and study Pirkei Avot (the first chapter of the Mishnah, which consists mostly of advice on proper behavior and attitude) during this season. The counting of the Omer is also an expression of anticipation. When we are excited about something we count the days to that event. I can recall the same sensation of many of our students about the end of the school year and start of camp.
I liken the Omer to my countdown to summer. Yes, my allergies will subside with consistent warmth, but more importantly I look forward to more “life.” I love knowing that we can leave the confines of our homes and enjoy not only the weather but the company of others. In honor of the mitzvah of counting the Omer I would like to invite everyone to participate in partake in The ARK’s Grain Food Drive.
- Shabbat Bo - January 9, 2019
- Shabbat Miketz - December 4, 2018
- Shabbat Chayei Sarah - October 31, 2018
- Shabbat Ha’Azinu - September 18, 2018
- Shabbat Shoftim - August 15, 2018
- Shabbat Pinchas - July 3, 2018
- Shabbat Beha’alotcha - May 31, 2018
- Shabbat Emor - April 25, 2018
- Shabbat Tzav - March 21, 2018
- Shabbat Mishpatim - February 7, 2018