"And from the day on which you bring the 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—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the Lord"
From the second night of Passover until the night before Shavuot, Jews are in a period of time known as “sefirat ha-omer,” the counting of the omer. The practice comes from this week’s Torah reading, Emor, where the Israelites are commanded to offer a measure of grain each day for seven weeks. During the seven weeks, Jewish life is a little more subdued. Many Jews don’t plan weddings or joyous events for this time, refrain from cutting their hair, and don’t listen to live music. These are signs of mourning, of withdrawing from the fullness of life. Sefirat ha-omer is also a time of reflection for many, a time to not only count the days, but commit to making the day count.
Jews are not the only faith group paying close attention to the calendar right now. Muslims through the world are celebrating the month of Ramadan. Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Quran, Islam’s holy text, and is observed through fasting and prayer. Muslims who are able fast throughout the day for the entire month, eating only before the sun rises and after it sets. Ramadan began April 24 this year and ends with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, a major Muslim holiday.
Jews and Muslims can often find points of shared experience, and this year will add an unexpected one – observing holy time, typically meant for family and community, in an era of social distancing. As of this writing, our society has largely been in a state of quarantine for approximately seven weeks. The days have felt impossibly long yet the weeks have moved by relatively quickly. Jews are more than half-way through sefirat ha-omer and Muslims are almost at the halfway point for Ramadan. Iftars, the traditional meal held to break the fast each evening, are held via zoom, much like the zoom seders Jews held for Passover last month.
My hope and prayer for our communities – Jewish, Muslim, and many other faiths – is that as we record this time physically apart from each other, we find ways to spiritually come together with our loved ones and one another. May we fill our days with connection and meaning, marking this difficult time as one with sparks of hope and moments of peace.