When we were little, we counted differently than we do as adults. When asked “how old are you?,” we probably responded: “I am five and a half.” That half year meant a lot. Until a child is two or so, parents reckon a baby’s age by the month: Aaron is 7 months old on Thursday.
We do a lot of counting in the Jewish calendar. There are long lists of our ancestors’ names in the Bible along with the number of years they lived. (Sometimes I muse over how time was calculated in days of yore. Did people really live for hundreds of years? Are we headed toward that possibility now with daily leaps in medical technology? But I digress...)
We are in the midst of the counting of the Omer. When the Holy Temple existed in Jerusalem, the Jewish people would bring an offering of a sheaf of barley. An ‘omer’ is a sheaf, a unit of measure.
You shall count for yourselves -- from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving -- seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days. Leviticus 23:15-16
You shall count for yourselves seven weeks, from when the sickle is first put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks. Then you will observe the Festival of Shavu'ot for the Lord, your G-d Deuteronomy 16:9-10
Shavuot is the day that we received the Torah. It is one of the Shalosh Regalim - the three pilgrimage festivals. (The other two are Passover and Succot.) It is usually given short shrift in liberal Jewish communities. Why? Why would we ignore a holiday upon which we are supposed to consume cheesecake, blintzes, ice-cream & kugel? (Dairy is the traditional choice for food, as we didn’t know how to observe kashrut when we first received the Torah.)
Much of it has to do, I believe with timing. Shavu’ot usually occurs in late May or early June. This year it is quite early: May 15-16. Religious school often ends before the holiday. Finals
and graduations over-shadow the importance of the festival. It
intrigues me that the holidays we fuss over most are the ones which are
difficult to observe: Passover and Succot. Perhaps we have a need to do
concrete labor to really get into holidays. I don’t know.
will read Torah and have a special observance during our Family service
in honor of Shavu’ot on 5/10 - along with an Ice-Cream Oneg and other
dairy delights. Chag Same’ach!
B’shalom u’vracha, [In peace & blessing,]