The significance, customs and mechanics of counting the Omer. by Rabbi Shraga Simmons ABC’s of the OmerABC’s of the Omer The significance, customs and mechanics of counting the Omer. by Rabbi Shraga Simmons What is the Omer? In the days…
The Maharal of Prague on Shavuot and the essence of man. by Rabbi Doniel Baron The following is a translated excerpt adapted from the Maharal of Prague’s homily delivered in Posen, Poland on Shavuot, in 5352/1592. The full text…
Shabbat Shalom Eve of Shavuot B’mindbar (“In the wilderness”) Num. 1:1-4:20
Haftarah Hos. 2:1-22(3:24)
Shavuot Exo. 19:1-26 Num. 28:26-31
Hatarah Eze/1:1-28, 3:12
Candle Lighting Times
Read Entire Story in Battalion of Deborah
by Rabbi Doniel Baron
The Maharal of Prague on Shavuot and the essence of man.
The following is a translated excerpt adapted from the Maharal of Prague’s homily delivered in Posen, Poland on Shavuot, in 5352/1592. The full text of the essay is printed at the end in the London edition of the Maharal’s Be’er Hagolah and has never been published in English.
King Solomon begins the book of Ecclesiastes with a question: “What advantage does man, adam in Hebrew, have in all that he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3). The question belies an assumption. If man does have any advantage at all, it is somehow connected to his name Adam, a name derived from his being created from the earth, adama in Hebrew. An understanding of that assumption provides us with an insight into the question.
Why is it more fitting for a human being specifically to be called “Adam” from the word adama, more than other creature? After all, God created everything from the earth (Medrash Rabba Bereishis 12:11). One would think that an animal’s earthy, materialistic nature would make it more worthy than man of receiving a name associated with the adama.
Yet a closer look reveals that man bears a relationship and likeness to the earth in a way that differs from that of all other animals and creatures. The ground has the power to grow things. It brings out the potential in plants, trees, fruits, and everything else it produces. Adama essentially exists in potential, and brings everything to fruition. In a similar vein, Adam is distinct in that he represents pure potential, and, like the land, the ability to bring forth bounty, namely, his own perfection.
Accordingly, man’s positive actions are called “fruits,” as it is written “say to the righteous person that he is good, for [righteous people] shall eat the fruits of their deeds (Isaiah 3:10).” Conversely, evil deeds are also called fruits, for it is said of the wicked “and they shall eat the fruits of their ways, and be satiated from their counsel (Proverbs 1:31).”
by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
Counting the Omer teaches us mindfulness, and opens our hearts to the power of stories.
The commandment to count the omer is one of the more curious prescriptions of the Torah. We are told to count the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot even though, of course, the number of days never changes. Therefore, it is very much an effort in which the process is in and of itself a value.
The word for “number” in Hebrew is mispar. Its root is closely related to the word for “story” ― sipur. What is the relationship between the two?
A collection of events becomes a story ― as opposed to a random anthology of events ― when there is a beginning in which the characters are introduced, a middle in which conflict takes place, and an end in which there is resolution.
Our lives flow by so quickly that we frequently lose awareness of the awesome power of our own stories. The metamorphosis of today into tomorrow is subtle enough for us to lose consciousness of beginnings and ends.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
The significance, customs and mechanics of counting the Omer.
What is the Omer?
In the days of the Holy Temple, the Jewish people would bring a barley offering on the second day of Passover (Leviticus 23:10). This was called the “Omer” (literally, “sheaf”) and in practical terms would permit the consumption of recently-harvested grains.
Starting on the second day of Passover, the Torah (Leviticus 23:15) says it is a mitzvah every day to “count the Omer” ? the 50 days leading up to Shavuot. This is an important period of growth and introspection, in preparation for the holiday of Shavuot which arrives 50 days later.
Shavuot is the day that the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, and as such required a seven-week preparation period. The commentators say that we were freed from Egypt only in order to receive the Torah and to fulfill it. Thus we were commanded to count from the second day of Pesach until the day that the Torah was given ? to show how greatly we desire the Torah.
At Mount Sinai, the Jewish people accepted the Torah with the words, na’aseh v’nishma – we will do, then we will understand (Exodus 24:7). Their commitment to keeping God’s Torah was not in any way contingent upon their understanding why they should do so. They were ready to do whatever God would command, irrespective of whether or not it made sense to them.
At first glance, this seems to fly in the face of all we know about Judaism. It is not a religion of blind faith. We define reality by using our mind. Our heart might tell us what “feels good,” but it doesn’t tell us what is the truth. Our emotions often blind us from seeing reality. So how could the Jewish people, at this seminal moment of history, seemingly subjugate themselves to mindless faith? It goes against so much of what Judaism holds dear.
Most of us do not understand how a nuclear bomb works. It makes no sense. You take a tiny particle, invisible even to some of the most powerful microscopes, and you split it in half. And by doing so, you release enough energy to destroy a city.
by Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum Renewing your nuptial vows this Shavuot.
When our daughter got married, I knew her wedding would be a special experience for many of our friends who had never seen an Orthodox Jewish wedding before, but I hadn’t realized just how special it would be. Bob told me beforehand that he had heard from others about the separate dancing for the men and the women, and I had described to him how people attend Orthodox weddings not merely to enjoy themselves, but to create joy for the bride and groom too. But nothing really prepared him for the gamut of intense emotion that seemed to pervade the whole atmosphere.
He was amazed how the mood of the crowd could jump so quickly, from one minute to the next. Teary eyes and sniffling accompanied the solemn music as the bride slowly walked down the aisle towards her husband-to-be. You could hear a pin drop as she circled him under the canopy seven times, tightly holding on to the hands of my wife and her new mother-in-law. But then, moments later, as the ceremony came to a close and the groom smashed the cup in remembrance of the Temple’s destruction, the startling sounds of shattering glass gave way to euphoric ecstasy, as the lively music erupted to the sounds of singing, clapping, and dancing
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons One of the holiest days of the Jewish year is also one of the least known. What is Shavuot really all about?
It is ironic that Shavuot is such a little-known holiday. Because in fact, Shavuot commemorates the single most important event in Jewish history — the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Shavuot is the culmination of the seven-week-long “counting of the Omer” that occurs following Passover. The very name “Shavuot” means “weeks,” in recognition of the weeks of anticipation leading up to the Sinai experience. (Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “the holiday of 50 days.”)
3,300 years ago, after leaving Egypt on the night of Passover, the Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. There, the entire Jewish nation — 3 million men, women and children — directly experienced divine revelation: