Counting the Omer: Destiny and Free Will

When we consider the meaning of our actions and of our days, many wonder: Destiny or free will?  Judaism says both!

A story is told about Rabbi Akiva’s daughter.  When she was born, astrologers told Rabbi Akiva that on her wedding day, she would be killed by a poisonous snake and die.  Years pass and the evening before the daughter’s wedding day arrives.  Exhausted after the rehearsal dinner, she climbs into bed, pulls her hairpin from her head, and sticks it in the wall for the next day.

The next morning, as Rabbi Akiva’s daughter is getting ready for her wedding, she pulls her hairpin from the wall and sees a poisonous snake impaled on the end!  She shrieks as she realizes how close the snake was to slithering through the crevice in the wall!  Rabbi Akiva, hearing the shriek, rushes in and sees his daughter with the dead snake dangling on the hairpin.  “What happened?” he asks.

His daughter recounts: Last night, during the rehearsal dinner, a beggar came knocking at the door.  The party was so noisy, no one heard the knock but me.  So I opened the front door and fed him.

Could one act of loving-kindness make a predicted fate null and void? Perhaps.  And perhaps this story is the reason why, in Pirke Avot, Rabbi Akiva is known to say: Everything is foreseen and free will is always in your hands.

Baruch Ata Adonai, Elohenu Melech ha-olam asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al s’firat ha’omer.  Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with sacred actions and enjoins us to count the omer.

Hayom shishah yamim la-omer.  Today is the 6th day of the Omer.

Have a sweet final day of Pesach!  Your RS Clergy