Today we are welcoming our newest staff member, Brian Garrick, Assistant Program Director of Jewish Life and Learning. Brian’s first project is to engage all of us in the counting of the Omer, marking our personal and collective time between the holidays of Passover (in early April) and Shavuot (in late May).
The question has often been posed in religious and secular circles; how can we use our precious days in this lifetime? How can we make our days count? Because it is a tradition to count the Omer, Brian will be engaging all of us to count our days (through our 14th Street Y twitter account @14thstreetY) and talk about how we make our days count. Please read below a message from Brian, and follow us @14thstreetY to retweet, comment, share, and count with us.
-Camille Diamond; Director of Community Engagement and Communications
In our busy, over-programmed world, too infrequently we create opportunities for self-reflection. The Jewish tradition offers us an incredible opportunity to look at ourselves and to ask questions of ourselves through Counting the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer). Omer means measures in Hebrew. When the Temple stood, it was customary to bring a measure of barley harvest as an offering three times a year, at Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot. The tradition of Counting the Omer dates to those ancient times. We measured the seven weeks between planting new barley and harvesting it; then offered a measure, in thanks, to God. The meaning of the counting and our awareness of time and its passage during those days has changed over time. Nowadays, most of us are not barley farmers, and the Temple no longer stands, so we must imbue practices like counting the Omer with new meaning.
Each Spring we count the days between Passover and Shavuot, 7 weeks of 7 days, 49 days total, leading up to the 50th day on Shavuot. During Passover, we celebrate the Exodus, the liberation of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Shavuot is the anniversary of the day when the ancient Israelites accepted the teachings of Torah at Mount Sinai. If Passover signifies freedom, then Shavuot signifies responsibility, the responsibility of living a good, just and ethical life according to Torah. The movement from redemption of Exodus to revelation at Sinai, echoes our ancestors’ journey out of Egypt and through the desert to Sinai.
As we move toward responsibility, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves why we count. We can take a serious look at what that responsibility entails, as Jews, and/or as citizens in our communities. So our counting becomes meaningful and an opportunity to reflect on our relationship to self, to others and to our communities. It provides an occasion to ask “Why I count?” Not simply asking, “Why I count the omer?” but the larger question of “Why I count in the world?” What is my relationship to it? How do I situate myself in relation to others? What is important to me? What is important that I tell or share with others? How does my organization or my community fit into the larger framework of the Jewish community, of downtown, etc? Perhaps, one can see this reflective practice as an extension of the questioning that began at the seder. What difference can I make in the world? What is my place here? What impact can I make? The omer is a call to be more than we have been before.
Here at The 14th Street Y, we are providing a platform for to engage in a social media campaign around The Counting of the Omer: #YiCount. Each day of the Omer, we will invite you to share with your community why you count.
Please follow @14thstreetY to discover the question of the day and to learn why others are counting as well.
We look forward to the conversation.
Brian is a recent transplant to New York City from San Francisco. He has worked as Program Manager for Arts & Ideas at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. He currently produces the weekly literary series at The Half King in Chelsea, New York City. He holds an MA in Jewish Studies from Emory University and has spent time learning at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. His talents and interests include the history and science of gastronomy, collecting vinyl records, Jewish philosophy, and rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers.