This year, my family and I are experiencing the “Ultimate Omer,” as we eagerly anticipate the days until (God-willing) the arrival of a new baby. Our house is in a state of total chaos, as we near the completion of our craziest “nesting” idea yet, a full kitchen remodel, and make preparations for the newest member of our family. There are checklists to be made, car seats to be installed, baby clothes to be washed and organized, according to size. There are bassinets, highchairs, baby monitors, bouncers to be dragged out of garage storage, and hospital overnight bags to be packed. The list in my head goes on and on, with each day blending seamlessly into the next -- until we reach “go time” and everything we know as a family of three changes.
And yet in all of this craziness, my tradition requires me to count each passing day.
As Rabbi Joel Nickerson introduced a few weeks ago, right now we are in a period of time on the Jewish calendar called the Omer, when we are instructed to literally count our days. In our ancient ancestor’s agricultural cycle, this 49-day journey between Passover and the upcoming festival holiday of Shavuot marked the start of the barley harvest. In our spiritual narrative, it marked the time in which our predecessors moved from their liberation (Passover) to revelation (Shavuot) and the receiving of the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai.
In this week’s Torah portion, Emor, we find the exact commandment for this Omer counting: “You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an Omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks.” In order to count the Omer, this passage from Leviticus, commands us to take a moment each night to stand, recite a blessing, and verbally count the number of days and weeks until we reach Shavuot. A daily reminder to recognize the importance of our journey, and not just focus on the destination.
With our son Joey, it seemed much easier to count each passing day. We had pushed through almost five years of fertility struggles. From my very first positive test, each day was a precious milestone. Each week we climbed mountains together, and each successful trimester we ascended towards that holy due date, when I would finally receive my personal moment of revelation, the gift of motherhood. I took a picture each day marking the transition of time, the transformation of my miraculous God-given body, as it nurtured and grew the tiny collection of cells that would become my first baby. Every day was a precious part of the journey.
This time around, balancing work, a very active toddler, a new home, a kitchen remodel, and an ongoing pandemic, I often lost track of my days. This time around, there was no iPhone application alerting me to which vegetable or fruit size was in my womb. There were minimal pictures documenting my changing body. There was no baby shower to prepare for, no Amazon registry to obsess over each night, and no books to be read. The days, the weeks, the months just seemed to fly by…until recently a congregant asked how far along I was, and with a rather lengthy consulting of my Google calendar, realized I was 38 weeks pregnant.
My focus was solely placed on my destination -- my due date, and I had completely lost track of the journey it took to get there. I just simply stopped counting.
Luckily, when it comes to the 49-day count of the Omer, our tradition expects us to get lost, and to lose track of our days. The rabbis of the Talmud somehow knew we wouldn’t always recognize the tiny moments leading up to our personal moments of revelation: A new baby, a new job, a new home, a wedding, the first yahrtzeit, the beginning of a relationship, or the finalization of a divorce. In Jewish Halacha (law) there is a Teshuvah, a way to return or repair our missed counting. According to the Shulchan Aruch, which is the codification, or as I like to call it the “cliff notes” version of Jewish law, if you forget to count a day of the Omer, or even several days of the Omer, the mitzvah is not considered null and void. Rather each day stands on its own as a mitzvah, and you just pick up your counting from the place you left off. Continually moving forward in your journey.
So this Shabbat, as I sit down with my little family to light candles for what could possibly be our final Friday night as a trio, I will look around, take a deep breath, and remember to count:
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.
Today is twenty-eight days, which is four weeks of the Omer.
Or in my case –
Today marks 38 weeks + 5 days of my journey to becoming a mother of two.
Cantor Lisa Peicott