Day 18 brings in another Sabbath, grey and windy in Manhattan. and a deeper commitment to being and not doing: unplug. And discover the layers of what it’s all about: My brother, Rav Benny Lau, is in town for one day, and I take him to the Metropolitan Museum and we walk and talk and move from Egypt to Greece to Middle Ages Spain and 21st Century America and he explains to me in perfect detail the multi historical layers of the Counting of the Omer. Amazing. He’s a great teacher. A treat. Here it is – a musuem of the traditoin – room to room in 3,000 years:
layer one: agricultural, ancient – like the oldest room in the museum – counting the 50 days from the ripening of the barely to the ripening of wheat. Offering the new wheat on the 50 day is the offering of the firstborn, the homage to life.
layer two: post exile – no longer on the land, and no more wheat and barley – the metaphor turns to the journey from the lowly barley of Egypt and slavery to the higher wheat of Sinai and redemption. They make up the date of the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai and the count towards the Torah. The Talmudic sages reinvent the 50 day count for the first time.
layer three: mourning. 2nd century BCE – as the last rebellion of Judah fails, thousands are slain. rootless, sucked into the vacuum of loss, the Judean exiles turn the 50 day count into the toll of grief: no shaving is introduced here, no weddings, no joy.
layer four: the kabbalists take over, and by the 10th century CE convert the count into a mystical journey towards the divine on top of Mt. Sinai – a pilgrimage of the soul towards greater being. Shavuot, Night 50 becomes the sacred union.
layer five: Zionist lore turns the count to focus on the days in between Passover and Shavuot – the Holocaust, the Memorial of the fallen soldiers, the Independence of the state – the count is reinvented again as a National entity.
layer six – well that’s where we come in – synthesis of all, no mourning, no farming – yes to growing beard and climbing the mountain, finding ways to embody traditions, unite with the mystery, bring soul to body and mindfulness to restlessness and make each day count towards more peace. into the sacred life. into LIFE.
Day 18. 32 to go. CHAI. Life. the amount of time it takes to bake a matza, the basic food of life: 18 minutes.
LIVE LIVE LIVE, says Auntie Mame.
My task today, my reminder: Turn off the computer once this is done. live by being, not doing, for 24 hours. be here now.