May 11, 2018
Today is the 41st day of the Omer. In daily morning prayers from the second day of Passover until the start of Shavuot, Jews around the world count the 49 days of the Omer. In a similar vein, I just counted, and there are only 28.5 days left of this school year. The countdown is on. Time really does fly!
A recent commentary I read positioned the counting up of the Omer as the opposite of what we do in so many other areas of our life – count down. So what is the relevance of counting down versus counting up? Counting down often brings with it a sadness or a sense of letting go of something -a sadness to say goodbye to teachers and friends for the summer; a reluctance to let go of wonderful learning experiences in a wonderful learning community; a curiosity about what new routines lie ahead in the summer months.
When we count up, we have the potential to elevate ourselves and reach new heights of spirituality. That is what Shavuot allows us to do. It celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People on Mount Sinai. We are able to renew our commitment to the laws of the Torah and the blessings of God. For some, as a way to recognize the spiritual opportunities of the this holiday, their custom is staying up all night engaged in learning. At the MNjcc, many community organizations gather and study all evening during the Tikkun Leil Shavuot. We are proud to be a partner in this event and are excited that the offerings for children and families are growing.
However you celebrate Shavuot, I encourage you to learn something new and Jewish with your child; perhaps read a new storybook or attend a Shavuot program. You might think about new and creative dairy recipes to enjoy as part of a festive celebration, or use Shavuot as an opportunity to adorn your garden with new flowers, perhaps some species that you haven’t planted before.
Growing up outside of the Jewish Day School world, Shavuot was the forgotten holiday. It came outside of the regular Hebrew School calendar and didn’t fall within the Jewish camping calendar. It wasn’t something I ever celebrated in my house. Having the annual opportunity to think about Shavuot, I am excited by the opportunity to learn with my family and reaffirm my belief in Jewish customs and traditions.
Shavuot is a special time and there is a clearly a reason why we count up to it, rather than count down. We wait in anticipation to replay the exciting moment when the Torah was given to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. The cheesecake and ice cream sandwiches are helpful too! So with only 7 days left, keep counting the Omer and consider what it is you are counting towards. In what way will you celebrate Shavuot in your family?
If counting up allows for excitement to build, I say we forget the countdown to summer and begin a count up until next school year. It is only 116 days until we get to start our cycle again and re-enter the halls of Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School, where we will welcome new faces and await updates from our current Grade Six students on their successes in Grade Seven!