Counting the Omer: To Go Up the Mountain and Really Be There

This Tuesday evening-Wednesday, June 3-4, the counting of the Omer concludes and Shavuot arrives with our Shavuot Night of Study (7pm).  For all of you who have been counting the Omer with us, or tuning in for some of the experience, this is a wonderful time to reflect.  What has it meant to turn back to the liberation story of Pesach, to look forward to the revelation story of Shavuot, and to consider on each day, the present moment where you stand?

Judaism offers a great many opportunities to pay attention to the present moment.  Some would say that such taking notice is the primary purpose for Jewish ritual.  Ritual stops us in our tracks, helps us to notice the bread we are about to eat, the Sabbath about to arrive, the Ten Commandments we are about to embrace.  Without ritual we are at risk of inhaling bread, moving into Friday evening, returning from work on June 3, without noticing.

As we celebrate the revelation at Mt. Sinai, consider Exodus 24:12: “Moses went up the mountain and he was there.”  A Hasidic teacher notices: “This seems redundant: if Moses went up to the mountain, of course he would be there.  However, this is proof that a person can exert tremendous effort to reach the top of a mountain, yet without being there.  He may be standing on the mountain, but his head may be elsewhere.  The main thing is not the ascent but being there, and only there, and not to be below at the same time.”

We know when we have left our soul below.  When our head is elsewhere. When we are not really there.  Every time we look down at the smartphone instead of up into the eyes of a friend.  Every time we eat while we are driving and talking on the phone at the same time.  Every time we clean the house instead of listening our kids read us the story they wrote in school.  In Elise Luce Kraemer’s article she mentions the meditation challenge of the monkey mind.  I suspect we are all challenged by the monkey life!  So Exodus 24:12 might not be so redundant.  Perhaps, it’s even our greatest challenge: To be present.  To go up the mountain and to be there.

I hope you will be there with us, in Jewish life and in this Shavuot season as we go up the mountain.  On Tuesday, June 3, 7-9 pm, you can be there at our Shavuot Night of Study.  On Wednesday, June 4, 10:45am, you can be there at our morning festival service.  Every Friday evening you can be there at 5pm Meditation and 6pm Shabbat services.

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 shmonahv ’arba-im yom, shehem shishah shavuot v’shishah yamim la-omer.

Today is 48 days which is 6 weeks and 6 days of the Omer.