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how do you count?

04/01/2021 08:51:10 AM

Apr1

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

By now the Seder accoutrements have been safely repacked and stored until next year, and we pray that we will remember where we put all of them same time next year (April 15, 2022 FYI). In some families, it might be the Seder plate that has generations of stories to tell, or perhaps a Kiddush cup, or Elijah’s cup, or the Matza plate. While it might seem superficial to note, but these items connect us to a very long line that takes us back to the first Passover. Just pause for a moment and think about that: through re-enactment, you reconnected with our ancestors from nearly 3,500 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I think that is rather amazing, and sometimes might be lost within the retelling of the story of our people. We are the heirs to a precious inheritance, one that cannot have a value placed upon it, but is replete with a remarkable history of perseverance.

The Jewish people comprise one of the oldest, continuous religious civilizations on this planet, with Abraham and Sarah harking back approximately 4,000 years ago. After this wow moment might come the “now what?” moment: with this rich history of observing the world and recording all that it has done, what are our responsibilities? Do we have any responsibilities? I think we do.

For starters, God gifted the words of the Torah to all of our people. We are in the midst of a special counting period, called Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer, which is roughly 9.30 cups dry weight of grain. We began this counting period during the second Seder, and continue for forty-nine days. As the forty-ninth day concludes, we arrive at Shavuot, which celebrates the Revelation of God at Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Torah. Tradition tells us that all Jews who will every live were present at that time, so that includes you, my dear reader. With our presence comes something important, but it is not the concept of “chosen-ness” which far too many people have misinterpreted to reflect arrogance or superiority. God gave us a responsibility: commandedness, i.e., observance of the mitzvot, which means “commandments”. We have the responsibility to perform what God demands of us to be the best versions of ourselves, and then model that to the rest of the world.

As the Yiddish expression goes, Shver tzu zein a Yid, it is difficult to be a Jew. It is, but through the challenges of doing our best to meet what God expects of us, we gradually become a better version of ourselves, and hopefully bring along a lot of people on that journey. The presence of bad people in the world reminds us that we cannot expect others to do the work if we are not carrying our fair share. We have to work even harder to improve the world aka Tikkun olam, and we cannot do that alone. There are many people ready and eager to be a partner, and those people must be sought out, engaged in the conversation, welcomed and encouraged to join in the journey to better the world. Each of us has an obligation to leave the world just a bit better than the way we first found it. While it is nice to aspire towards the Nobel Peace Prize, a more reasoned question might be: What have I done to better my community in the years that I have lived there? As we count towards forty-nine, how do you count?

Wed, April 21 2021 9 Iyyar 5781