Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ragers, decrees, and life-long journeys

It's OK troops, the antigravity sickness will wear off momentarily.  Now, let's move!

Counting things is really great.  For example:  how many kids can fit in a minivan, how many eggs are required for kugel, and just how many bus rides do you need to recite all of Tehillim?  (jokes... I think...)

In actuality, counting can be a very powerful thing.  Today marks the 49th day of the Omer- the time period between the second day of Pesach and Shavuot.  For people who look forward to a daily mitzvah that has to be performed consecutively, these 7 weeks are spiritually satisfying.  For all us normal kids, it can be pretty stressful.  You have to remember which day it is (49 times) and can only count as it becomes dark.  It's amazing that anyone can make it to the end, unless you daven ma'ariv every single day.  But for me, that's too many "b'li neders" to handle so I'm extremely happy for handy dandy omer-counting-apps.

Vayikra 23:15 is the source of this anxiety-filled time period:
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָ
We could just leave it at "the Torah made me do it," but we live in a day where most of us need to find a personal, more meaningful reason for doing these absurd rituals that can take hours to explain to our non-religious/non-Jewish friends.

Shavuot is the holiday when the Jewish people received the Torah at Sinai, complete with thunder boomers, billows of smoke, and shofar blasts.  Sounds like the best rager of the century with the addition of a lengthy list of laws...probably my top 2 favorites in life.  If you were invited to go to the best party in all the lands you'd probably be counting down the days on your stone calendar.  So this makes sense- the Jewish people like counting down to their exciting life events.

But wait, this presents a problem.  We're not counting down during the omer count; we're counting up!  Don't be alarmed, we can find some spiritual satisfaction in this too.  The past 7 weeks have been considered a time to prepare and refine ourselves.  This journey began as we transitioned out of our state as slaves and ends as we receive the Torah.  We went from being empty, deflated matza-souls to being completed, dairy-induced bloated souls (the best kind out there).  As we continue to add to our lives, we increase the daily count to remind us of all that we've accomplished and obtained since that first day.

This year, Shavuot isn't just a culmination of the past 7 weeks for me but a time to reflect on everything that's happened this year.  A time to count my blessings for every single opportunity I've encountered, every person I've met, every text I've learned to call my own, every place I've fallen in love with, and every mark that's been made on my soul.  As I look back, I feel conflicted to think about the fact that I'm leaving the place that made all of this happen.  Like the Israelites, I'm hesitant to make that next step into "foreign territory."

There are plenty of other things I'd like to say but chag is quickly approaching and there's plenty left to do.  So I'll end by saying this:  What am I going to do next year when my mornings don't start with intense text study, when I can't say things like mamesh, assur, baruch HaShem, yotzei, kal v'chomer, davka, and mixed dancing, and, above all, when I realize that I need to eliminate the phrase "I'm about to pee my pants."

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