Counting of the sheaves

By June 9, 2019 July 23rd, 2019 Rabbi Tzemah's Blog

The period of 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Pentecost (Pesach and Shavuot) which we find ourselves in is very special to me, since it is when I met my beautiful Aviva. This period of time is called Sefirat Ha-Omer, literally the counting of the sheaves, the time that the Jews of the ancient world waited until the first grain had ripened. This period of time captured the imagination of Jewish mystics, and according to their reckoning, each of the weeks corresponded to an attribute or a part of the imagined heavenly body.

After seven periods of seven years, a jubilee is called.

As a hyper-rationalist, I could have construed this whole system as mumbo jumbo, but I’ve always loved numbers (just for kicks, I once learned pi to 1000 digits), and I especially love square numbers and other symmetric numerology. Aviva reminds me that we met on day 36 of this period, which was for these mystics the most auspicious day for relationships. Forty-nine and 50 are numbers that sometimes symbolize freedom in the Jewish mind, for according to Leviticus 25, it is after seven periods of seven years that a jubilee is called, and all land reverts to its original owners, all slaves are freed, and all debts are null and void. Now, this biblical chapter is very likely engaging in pure legal fantasy and such a concept was probably never enacted but it is quite inspiring.

According to the early Rabbis, the first Shavuot was the day the Torah was given at Sinai,

On the fiftieth day after they finish counting, some Jews celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, which according to the early Rabbis was the day the Torah was given at Sinai. According to Bible critics such as myself, however, the Torah was written by human beings beginning in the 8th century BCE.  Instead of celebrating the giving of the Torah I celebrate the joy of learning something new. This year I think I will learn to sing a new Yiddish lullaby for my baby.