A Playlist for the Omer: The Journey from Liberation to Revelation

May 11, 2015Rabbi Steven Moskowitz

Before leaving on a recent long car ride I downloaded a Spotify playlist: “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” The journey began with Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” We pulled into our driveway to “The House of the Rising Sun.” In between, we listened and debated the choices. I could have done without Johnny Cash, but I appreciated the iconic choice. The B-52’s “Love Shack” restored memories of late evenings dancing and partying. I recalled: Prince really is that good. And it really did begin with Elvis.

The mileage remained the same. The trip was lengthened by three construction delays. Twelve hours door to door.

In the end, the count was 137 songs to home. The playlist did not, of course, change the length of the ride. It did, however, transform the experience.

“And from the day on which you bring the omer (sheaf) of elevation offering – the day after the Sabbath – you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: You must count until the day after the seventh week – 50 days…” (Leviticus 23:15-16)

We find ourselves in the midst of the Omer, when we count off the days, and weeks, in between Passover and Shavuot. Last week, we celebrated the 33rd day of the Omer: Lag BaOmer. The journey begins with our liberation from Egypt. It concludes with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Each and every day is counted. It is a long trip.

In fact, Shavuot is unique among the Jewish holidays. The Torah does not assign a calendar date for this day. It is instead celebrated the day after the counting of the Omer is concluded. It is observed on the fiftieth day. The journey from liberation to revelation is long.

During these tenuous weeks as we wait for the revelation of Torah, and our ancestors anxiously waited for a bountiful harvest, the tradition ascribed semi-mourning practices: no weddings, no music and no haircuts – except for on La BaOmer. According to tradition, Lag BaOmer is the yahrzeit of Shimon bar Yohai, the legendary author of Jewish mysticism’s central text, the Zohar. People celebrate. They light bonfires. It is a day when the restrictions of the Omer are lifted. We sing and dance.

The task of investing meaning in our freedom remains in our hands. The challenge of giving meaning to the journey is found in the songs we sing each and every day, each and every week.

We count: “Today is 37 days, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer.”

I find myself wanting get in the car again. I find myself wanting to return to the journey with no destination in mind. I turn to #138. There is music again in the heart, in the counting.

A new song awaits tomorrow.

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