Pesach Fatigue - still a long way to journey

As we approach shabbat and then another day or two of chag some start to feel a little fatigued of Pesach, of potatoes and eggs and matzah and ground almonds. But it is a little soon to get tired! I have always loved how the Jewish calendar continually takes us on journeys; cycles of torah, cycles of liturgy, cycles of time; and this time of year is a really important example of that. We are still in Pesach but we have already begun 'counting the Omer' - a count that leads us directly to Shavuot.
Counting the Omer began on the second night of Pesach. One of my favurite websites for counting the Omer (and thinking about it) is The Homer Calendar which describes the origins of the counting of the Omer very well: "On the second day of Passover in ancient times, our ancestors brought the first sheaf of barley (amounting to a measure called "an omer") reaped that season as an offering to God. From that day, they began counting the 49 days to Shavuot, when they would celebrate the beginning of the wheat harvest by offering the loaves made of the first wheat. Even after the Temple was destroyed and offerings were no longer brought, they continued to count the days from Passover to Shavuot in accordance with the biblical injunction (Lev. 23:15)".
So as with many of our festivals, there are important agricultural origins. But once the Temple had been destroyed, and sheaves and first fruits could no longer be offered at the Temple, Shavuot began to take on new meanings, primary of which was the celebration of the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai. This means we are on a very special journey in spiritual terms through the Omer.
At Pesach we become Free, but this is not necessarily an anarchic free for all. We are freed from slavery to Pharoah, to a role of serving God. With freedom comes responsibilities, and this journey to Shavuot gives us time to prepare for those responsibilities.
One of our biggest responsibilities today is figuring out how to make these meta-narratives of freedom, revelation and responsibility compelling year after year, and how to find ourselves in these narratives. Every year we come to the narratives of the Torah and the festivals with new experiences, different lenses. But this creates part of our responsibility. We revisit the same narratives and stories year after year, so year after year it is our duty to do the hard work of finding meaning in them, and finding ourselves in them. Whether we believe them to be literally true or to hold deep spiritual or meta-truths, finding what meaning (and of course joy - you know me by now!) they can add to our lives, keeps them real, and keeps us growing and learning. So this Omer, as we walk from freedom to revelation and responsibility, it is the responsibility of each of us to do the hard work of making these narratives ours, of finding meaning in them, and of making sure our Judaism is compelling for us. If it is not compelling and meaningful for us, then it won't be for those who come after us. It is a big responsibility, sometimes the most challenging one to us as Progressive Jews. It involves hard work and effort, but work for which the reward is all ours.
There are lots of ways of making the Omer more meaningful - Homer Omer (link above) has several suggestions, and the Reform Judaism Pilgrim Festivals prayer book also has a calender of readings for the Omer you can follow each day. You can follow tweetWLS on twitter for a daily Omer tweet, and WLS is also using the Omer to focus on social action and supporting refugees by donating nappies and rice. Whatever you do to make your Omer more meaningful, remember it is your walk to walk, and no one else can do the hard work for you. Walk well!


  1. You are absolutely right about finding a way to make the Omer meaningful to ourselves. It's a responsibility that falls on every one of us. Thank you for this post, Rabbi!

    (Third time lucky to be able to actually upload this comment..?)

  2. Nice to meet you through your blog. Trying to count the Omer myself this year and blog about it too at Http://

    I find that the challenge - for me as much as for my congregants - is to take the poignant message of Pesach and make it real for the rest of the year. The social action imperative is easy. The other messages are more challenging.

    I look forward to reading about your journey too.

  3. Thanks for your nice words about the Homer Calendar. We've moved this year to .

    The site's had lots of UK friends - a while back the British Makor/AJY put out a "choveret" (pamphlet) on the omer that included the 49-day Homer version.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts