Many Jews around the world are currently observing a sacred period of the Jewish calendar year called, “The Counting of the Omer.” This observance is based on the biblical mandate to count bundles of grain (the omer) every day for seven weeks from the second day of Passover through the festival of Shavuot.
Traditionally, this seven-week period is considered to be a minor mourning period. Throughout these forty-nine days (with a few exceptions), observant Jews treat these days like any other period of mourning. Weddings and other major celebrations are prohibited during this time, and grooming of nails, shaving and haircuts are not done.
While it is not clear why these seven weeks are set aside as a mourning period, a Talmudic legend claims that thousands of disciples of Rabbi Akiva died in the early 1st century from a plague, which supposedly transpired during the weeks between Passover and Shavuot. Oddly, there is not much more that can be found regarding the historical backdrop for these forty-nine days of ritual counting and communal morning. Thus, with very little historical meaning connected to the omer and the customs of morning and counting, observance of the rituals associated with these seven weeks ebbed.
Additionally, as the Jewish world evolved beyond the rituals of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, the concept of counting bundles of grain lost its significance for most Jews of the modern era. In recent years, however, this ritual period of counting has experienced a spiritual revival. For Jews seeking to find meaning beyond the ancient agricultural rituals, the forty-nine days of “The Counting of the Omer” has been redefined as a period to cultivate the human spirit rather than the land. One modern interpretation of the “The Counting of the Omer” suggests that this ancient ritual encourages us to count our blessings and make each and every day of our lives count.
Counting our blessings will play a central role at our Annual Meeting on May 19, as we honor and celebrate the many blessings brought to us by our Executive Director, Melissa Wolfson. Melissa has been with HCRJ for ten years, and her service to our community has been exemplary. Throughout her decade of dedication, Melissa has committed herself to growing and evolving with our community.
Melissa started as part time office manager with basic secretarial responsibilities, but as our congregation rapidly expanded, so too did the demands on Melissa. With an eye for detail and a boundless desire to meet our constantly changing needs, Melissa devoted herself to developing the skills and mastering the technologies which were central to the management and development of the business side of HCRJ.