Shabbat Emor 5776

Did you remember to prepare for the two major Jewish holidays we’ll observe next week? I bet you didn’t. That’s because in the scope of things, Pesah Sheini, which is on Sunday, and Lag B’Omer, which begins Wednesday night into Thursday, are by no means major holidays. But they are marked on any Jewish calendar worth the donation, and they are respites in the days of the counting of the ‘Omer.
For some reason, our tradition took the seven-week period of anticipation that begins with the Exodus and culminates at Mount Sinai and turned it into a period of mourning. What could and should have been emphasized as a way to look forward to the ultimate benefit of freedom–the gift of Torah–became instead a time when we wonder if we can have weddings and other celebrations.
How did this happen to our calendar? The Talmud (Yevamot 62b) tells of a plague that killed 12,000 pairs of Rabbi Akiva’s students in the days between Pesah and Shavu’ot. Is that an unfortunate coincidence? What was the cause of the plague? Is it even plausible that Rabbi Akiva had so many students? And mostly, why do we continue to observe mourning practices during the‘Omer?
On Shabbat morning, we’ll look closely at the traditions about the plagues, and what we can learn from them even if we don’t take them as historically accurate facts. And we’ll consider how to make the ‘Omer what it was originally intended to be–a time for counting up toward the privilege of receiving the Torah.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, and a festive Pesah Sheini/Lag B’Omer,
Rabbi David Wise