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“For those who have lost track, today is Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay.”
This is a popular sentiment in a time of confusion and disruption of so many routines. So, it’s fortunate in many ways that the Jewish calendar actually tells us to get ready and start counting the days and the weeks going forward, beginning with tomorrow night [April 8, 2020]. Listen to Daily Notes Episode 8.
This is because the Jewish calendar doesn’t give the festival of Shavuot its own date but marks it 51 days after the start of Passover.
In the ancient agricultural cycle, Passover marked the barley, or early grain, festival, and Shavuot was the wheat, or late grain, festival.
In the more abstract progression of the calendar, Passover celebrates Liberation, and Shavuot celebrates Revelation. This helps reinforce the idea that Liberation must lead to Revelation, and that Revelation is built on Liberation.
Passover begins in a few hours — on the evening of April 8. The next night, we being “sefira,” Hebrew for “counting,” until we reach seven full weeks and 49 days. The day after the count concludes is Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks– shavuot means “weeks” or “sevens” in Hebrew.
Instead of a count-down toward something — ten days til my birthday, 9 days, 8 days, etc. — we count UP….(more on this at another time).
Because the Bible mentions (Lev 23:15-16) counting both weeks and days, we do both and consider each a separate commandment…This counting is carefully observed by many Jews and barely noticed, maybe even entirely unknown, by others.
In the agricultural cycle, the time before a harvest is one of worry — will we see enough to feed everyone — or not?
For that reason and others, Sefira is observed as time of semi-mourning by many.
In a similar spirit of concern and in recognition of the movement from the initial Passover story into the wilderness and the Revelation at Sinai, some who observe Sefira focus on self-reflection and spiritual development to ready themselves to celebrate giving of the Torah at Shavuot.
In addition, following up on Passover’s theme of Liberation, Sefira is used as a time of prayer for captives.
In all these ways, Sefira is the perfect time for pursuing a journey of exploring the workings of oppression and our part in them. Doing so will help us better address the work of dismantling those systems.
We cannot act effectively if we feel ill-equipped, overwhelmed, hopeless, and isolated.
So now is a time to work together, even in our strange and separated circumstances and follow the example of the Jewish calendar in using this time to count UP and gather our spiritual resources for getting out of the Narrow Place and toward something better.