Eli Revzen’s Bar Mitzvah Dvar: Bamidbar

Eli and his friend Otto, shown working on their mitzvah project in the Shelly Volk Memorial Garden

Shabbat shalom. Today I just read from chapter one of the book of Bamidbar, and my parasha is also called Bamidbar. A parasha is like a few chapters smushed together by topic in the torah.

My parasha describes the events that took place a little over a year after the Israelites left Egypt. While the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God told Moses to count the Israelites. Every Israelite man capable of bearing arms was counted

There ended up being 603,550 men total counted in the census. However, God told Moses not to include the Levites in the census, nor have them dwelling among and counted with the rest of Israelites.

The Levites’ duty was serving the Tabernacle, and when the Israelites travelled, the Levites were to dismantle the Tabernacle and reassemble it in the new encampment. If any outsider came near the Tabernacle, they were to be put to death.

Finally, the Israelite tribes were commanded to camp each under their own standard. The children of Israel were good this time and actually listened to Moses’s decree in the name of God, so they were counted and there was no divine wrath.

What was the point of a census being taken at this time? Because the census counted only the men who could bear arms, it seems like what was happening was the Israelites were building an army.

Why was God thinking about building an army at this point in time? Well, it makes sense after what happened at Rephidim, which I’ll tell you about later. God probably wanted to have the chosen people safe so god told Moses to count them to create an army.


The question for me, the big question in this parasha is if Moses was counted in the census. The question seems small, but the implications are big. If Moses was counted, it would mean that he was one of the people, thus equal in value to the average Israelite man. If Moses was not counted it might hint that he was above the people, because he was closer to God.
Did Moses count himself in the census?


If he was counted then he was going to be an active participant in a militia, and in this case he’d be sharing the risks with the Israelites when going to war. If he wasn’t counted then he would have had others risking themselves for him.

Since the point of the census was to build an army, I think that Moses probably wouldn’t have been a part of the census. Since Moses was the leader, if he were to die in battle the proverbial snake would be headless. Also, we can assume he was fairly old at the time, thus probably not fit to bear arms.

Another Spectuation
We can speculate about the answer to this question based on an earlier story in the Torah, the story of Rephidim, and yes I’ll tell you about it very soon, but right now I’m procrastinating. In the Book of Exodus, Moses and the Israelites fight the Amalekites at Rephidim; during the battle Moses gives power to the warriors fighting in the battle.

Rephidim
Since I said I’ll tell you about what happened at Rephidim: The Israelites were attacked by the people of Amalek two months after they left Egypt. So Moses had a rag-tag team go and do battle with the Amalekites. During the battle, when Moses raised his hands, the Israelites prevailed, and when he lowered his hands the Amalekites prevailed. The Israelites were winning for a time, but Moses’ hands grew heavy. Why, is it because that standing for hours on end with your hands up isn’t everyone’s favorite pastime? So Moses then sat on a rock while Aaron and Hur held his hands up for him. And like this his hands were up till sunset. Then it says Joshua (who was probably in charge of the rag-tag team) overwhelmed the Amalekites by the sword.

The story of the battle at Rephidim is an example of what Moses once did to aid the soldiers of Israel. In the battle of Rephidim the soldiers were obviously in jeopardy. But the question is, was Moses? Did he put himself in jeopardy by raising his hands? If not, was it ethical for him to put others’ lives in danger without sharing the risk with them?

Contemporary example
A good contemporary example of different risk levels between a person in charge and the common man is modern industry. A manager of a steel plant is almost never at risk of getting burned, yet the workers are. In this case the manager is like Moses and probably not at risk, but the workers are. The question is is it ethical for a manager to not endanger themself in same way as the common worker. Sometimes this is the only way, if the job involves skills that the manager doesn’t have for example, using heavy machinery and the like.

This topic is very complex and each situation has its own answer so it’s impossible to give a yes this is okay or no don’t do that answer. As consumers of products made by such an industry we are part of this chain. While inside a system it’s very hard to pass a judgment on the ethics of that system. One of the reasons this is very hard is because when you are passing that judgment you’re also judging yourself which makes it difficult not to be biased.

To end my dvar torah I will ask you the Cahal a question, and I’ll love to hear your answers.

Is it okay to have someone do something for you that involves risk without you sharing the risk with them?

Y’all have raised many good points but now it is coming closer to candy throwing time so I must wrap-up.
Conclusion:
This dvar torah raises many more questions than answers, but that is how life is there are almost always more questions that come up the deeper you look.


Thank yous:
This enriching experience of having a bar mitzvah wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing support of many even more amazing people. First I have to thank my parents who made this all possible. Without their love and support this would never have happened. I’d also want to thank my relatives who traveled great distances to be here to support me. Next I have to thank Rabbi Ora, my tutor Lisa, and Deb Kraus who all taught me the skills necessary to be part of this truly enjoyable event. Last but not least I have to thank you all for being such a cooperative Cahal and as a thanks to all of you, my family and I have made a feast for all of you to enjoy. Shabbat shalom and have a great shabbat with your friends and family.

An Informative and Engaging Shavuot!

by Emily Eisbruch and Gillian Jackson

Our delicious Shavuot Desert Potluck provided by AARC! Photo Credits: Emily Eisbruch

In honor of the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai, AARC celebrated Shavuot this year by engaging in learning and discussion. We were joined by Kehillat Israel from Lansing. The evening was structured around discussion groups on interesting and relevant topics.

The first two discussion groups were led by congregation members Clare Kinberg from AARC and Ken Harrow from KI.

Clare Kinberg leading a discussion on ‘Jewish Time’ on Shavuot.

Clare Kinberg led a discussion about the Jewish concept of time and how it relates to the story of Ezra. A lively discussion followed regarding the different ways that Jews interpret history and time as it is written in our sacred texts.

Ken Harrow leading a discussion on ‘The Events at Sinai’ on Shavuot.

Ken Harrow led a discussion about the events at Sinai. In his session he focused on how to contextualize the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the commandments. Ken emphasized relationships to works of art, demonstrating our connections with facial expressions.  Ken shared slides with examples from famous artworks, including self-portraits from Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

After enjoying a potluck of delicious deserts provided by members of AARC, we embarked on even more engaging opportunities for learning with Rabbi Ora and Rabbi Zimmerman.

Rabbi Ora leads a discussion on ‘Jewish Perspectives on Abortion’

Rabbi Ora led a discussion on Jewish Perspectives on Abortion. The discussion was a fascinating exploration of various texts that reference abortion. Looking at the issue from the perspective of various Jewish Sects, Rabbi Ora showed how the Jewish people have struggled to codify when and how a woman should be allowed to terminate her pregnancy.

Rabbi Zimmerman leads a discussion on the Green New Deal.

Rabbi Michael Zimmerman’s session on “The Torah of the Green New Deal” looked at  Judaism’s approach to caring for the planet.  He shared a handout with biblical and other references urging stewardship of the land, including text from House Resolution 109 on the Green New Deal.  The group discussed the relationship between Jewish teachings on charity and preservation of the earth.

All and all much knowledge was passed and given. It was truly an enriching evening during which the two congregations were able to get to know each other and enjoy lively discussion!

A look back at Beit Sefer 5779

by Beit Sefer director Clare Kinberg

Building the Sukkah at Carole Caplan’s Farm on Jennings, a Beit Sefer tradition

I sent out a survey for parents last week seeking feedback on the past year of religious school, and in the process, I took a mental stroll through the year. It was a good one, with several innovations.

Collecting the s’kach, roof coverings.

For several years now, we have built a sukkah at Carole Caplan’s Farm on Jennings as a way to start off the year. This year we added an optional sleep over! For the sukkah building, a few new families joined us. Cooking out, putting up tents, having Beit Sefer outside, all of it was a lot of fun.

Rabbi Ora and congregants unroll our Torah scroll, believed to be over 200 years old.
Searching the scroll

For Simchat Torah this year we unfurled our Torah scroll at the JCC, with Rabbi Ora leading some Torah investigation. Parents and students got a close in look at our very old and unusual Torah.

Human Menorah

For Hanukkah we had some in class parties and latke making. Sufganiyot making at Clare’s house.

If fact, food figured into several lessons! We have a few challah bakers, donut makers, and latke fryers among our parents and teachers.

This year we joined the Jewish Cultural Society’s Purim Carnival in the gym for fun, games and shaloach manot/Purim gifts making.

Planting trees at County Farm Park

Finally, we had our first picnic/tree planting at County Farm Park. Back during the winter, when we celebrated Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, the most we could do was think about planting trees. That’s when I hatched the idea to plan a tree planting expedition. With some great networking by Stacy, we got in touch with the County Farm Park Naturalist Shawn Severance. Shawn set us up to plant more than a dozen persimmon, paw paw, and plum trees.

Innovations in the classroom included, Aaron Jackson and madricha Rose Basch leading the G’dolim in making pin ball machines that tell the stories of the Golem of Prague and the Passover journey. Shlomit Cohen added a six week unit on Israel, and Rabbi Ora taught a unit on the Bedtime Shema.

Visualizing the Bedtime Shema

All in all, the greatest successes of the year included community building, camaraderie among the students, parents and teachers, and growing commitments to Jewish learning. Special shout out to our madrachim, Rose Basch, Avi Lessure and Zander McClain. After several years of being helpers in the classroom, Rose and Avi are moving on. We will miss them!

What is Tikkun Leil Shavuot?

By Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

The evening of Shavuot finds Jews around the world gathering in synagogues and learning through the night, often fueled by coffee and cheesecake.

This practice of all-night Torah study is known as ‘tikkun leil Shavuot.’ The tradition dates back to 16th century Tzfat; it’s said that the famous kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (more commonly known as the Ari) instituted the practice as a ‘tikkun’ – correction or repair – for an ancient error.

‘Tikkun’ is a familiar first half of the modern phrase ‘tikkun olam’ – that is, healing or repairing the world through acts of social, political, and climate justice. But what breach are we repairing on the night (‘leil’) of Shavuot?

Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Israelites following 49 days of rigorous spiritual preparation (the Omer). According to one midrash, the night before the giving of the Torah, the Israelites did what anyone tries to do before an important event – they turned in early for a good night’s sleep. This seemingly innocent decision, however, led to embarrassing consequences. The next morning, when it came time for the Torah to be given, the base of Mount Sinai was empty. The entire Jewish people had slept in. The midrash even recounts that Moses had to wake the Israelites with a shofar, causing G-d to lament, “Why have I come and no one is here to receive me?” (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:12b)

In order to rectify this ancient mistake, the Ari instituted a custom of all-night learning: we remain awake to show that, unlike our heavy-lidded ancestors at Sinai, we are ready to receive Torah and God.

This midrash may not sit comfortably with all of us. Maybe we don’t like the idea of being burdened by our ancestor’s errors, or maybe we simply want to be motivated to learn by something other than correction.

It’s customary to learn from the Oral Torah (Mishnah and Talmud) on Shavuot, rather than from the Torah itself. I think there’s a lesson here: in coming together to learn on Shavuot, we’re doing more than simply correcting an ancient mistake; we are adding our voices to a millenia-old tradition of oral learning, interpretation, and argumentation. On Shavuot, we add to our tradition by offering each other new pathways to accessing wisdom. In this sense, every Shavuot we who learn are contributing to ‘tikkun olam’ – to repairing the frayed threads of our world.

What is AARC up to for Shavuot?

Tikkun Leil Shavuot Special: Kehillat Israel Comes to Ann Arbor!

Saturday, June 8

This year we will enjoy a special celebration for Shavuot in collaboration with members of Kehillat Israel, the Reconstructionist congregation in Lansing.

Kehillat Israel members will spend the afternoon exploring Ann Arbor, and have invited us to join them! If you’d like to participate in an ecological study walk in the Arb led by Rabbi Michael Zimmerman (4-5 pm) and an early dinner at Zingermans (5:15-6:15 pm), sign up here.

Tikkun Leil Shavuot (6:30-9:30 pm at the JCC) will have multiple learning opportunities for adults and teens-and-tweens (Grade 5 and up).

The schedule for adults is:     

 6:15 pm – Gather at the JCC

6:30-7:30 pm – Choose 1 of 2 study sessions    

7:30-8:00 pm – Cheesecake and schmoozing    

8:00-9:00 pm – Choose 1 of 2 study sessions    

9:00-9:30 pm – Jewish summer camp-style Havdalah (led by our teens)

Tentative list of adult ed sessions:    

Ken Harrow – The Events at Sinai    

Rabbi Michael Zimmerman – The Torah of the Green New Deal    

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner – Abortion and Judaism   

Clare Kinberg – Jewish Time

The schedule for teens:

Games, food, fun and a play! Concurrent to the adult study session on Shavuot, we will have two sessions for young people, ages ~ 9- 16. Our Beit Sefer G’dolim class created two pin ball games that are ready to roll! There is a puzzle board game special for Shavuot, a skit and planning for an end of the evening Havdalah. Beit Sefer G’dolim teacher Aaron Jackson will be leading the youth along with teachers from KI in Lansing. Bring the kids for a fun evening, with some learning, too!

If you plan on attending the Shavuot program, please sign up here. If your tween/teen plans on attending, please sign them up here.

Jacob Resnick’s Bar Mitzvah Dvar: K’doshim

Shabbat Shalom and good morning. Today, I’ll be teaching you about my Torah portion K’doshim, which is in the book of Leviticus.

K’doshim means holy in hebrew. In my Torah portion, God gives Moses many commandments to give to the Israelites, the first one being, “You shall be holy.” Some of the commandments are basic rules that most of us still try to follow today like “You shall not steal” or “your shall not defraud your fellow”.


Others are more dated like “You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruits of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.” This commandment is dated because most of us don’t have vineyards now, but as Jewish people we like to take principles from the Torah and see how we can apply them to today’s world. With the law about leaving fallen fruit for strangers, I think this ancient law can teach us to not be greedy and save some of our wealth to give to people who don’t have much.

Another similarly dated commandment in my Torah portion is, “ If anyone insults either their mother or father he shall be put to death.” Instead of killing disrespectful children, today we have other less extreme punishments like getting grounded, but the principle of respecting your parents is still applied today.

The commandment or law from my Torah portion that I want to focus on today is a prohibition against worshipping Molech, where God tells Moses,

”Say further to the Israelite people: Anyone among the Israelites, or among the strangers residing in Israel, who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall be put to death; the people of the land shall pelt him with stones. And I will set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he gave of his offspring to Molech and so defiled My sanctuary and profaned My holy name.”

If you didn’t know, Moloch is the name of a biblical Canaanite god. Moloch is usually depicted as a statue of a person with a bull’s head, and a furnace in its belly. Biblical historians believe the Canaanites worshipped Molech by offering it their children to be burned as sacrifices.

The Canaanites were an ancient people who lived in the land of Canaan, an area which most likely included parts of modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The Canaanites were neighbors to the ancient Israelites once the Israelites entered the Land of Israel. So clearly, it was a concern that the Israelites might start to take on Canaanite traditions, including child sacrifice.

In my Torah portion alone the prohibition against Molech is mentioned four times.

Rabbi Ora taught me that it is not common in the Torah for words or ideas to be repeated without a reason. So the question I had is – Why is this law against worshipping Molech and child sacrifice repeated by God so many times?

I feel like God mentions this law so many times because it’s such a sensitive moral issue. We know that the Ten Commandments outlaw killing in general. The killing of anyone is wrong, but it is especially difficult to read of parents killing their children, because the child doesn’t have a choice and the child has no possible hope of a future.

I think God repeated the prohibition against Molech so many times because God needed to let the Israelites know that sacrificing your child is an unforgivable crime.

As someone who is adopted, and thinking more about this commandment, I see some connections between ancient children not having a choice on whether they got sacrificed, and me not having a choice on whether I was adopted. Obviously being adopted is not the same thing as being sacrificed, but there are some similarities.

One big similarity is that being adopted means being picked up and moved, not having a say on what’s going on. Being adopted means leaving this whole other life behind that you don’t even get a chance to try. Looking more into this law it was like looking into my life, and questions came up: Questions like not knowing why I was being given up, which was probably similar to the biblical kids not knowing why they were being sacrificed.

So, some of the challenges of being adopted are not having a choice, not knowing why you were being given up, and leaving a whole other life behind. Those are all the hard aspects of adoption, but there are more good ones. If I wasn’t adopted then I wouldn’t have met all the people in this room today, my friends, family, and this congregation. I probably wouldn’t have the great education and privileges I have today. I also wouldn’t be able to embrace being Jewish which I’m proud to be.

To me there’s nothing wrong with being adopted because I’m probably having a better life than if I wasn’t adopted.

Despite this, when I introduce myself as being adopted to other people, I notice people often seem to feel some discomfort in talking about it. Sometimes I get the response of, “Oh I’m so sorry for you.” I sometimes think that in that moment people are imagining themselves in my position and thinking about what would be different for them if they had been adopted. This could make them feel sad so then they say they are sorry for me. Or maybe they just feel uncomfortable with something that’s unfamiliar and don’t know what to say.

I’m speaking about my adoption today — the things that are hard about being adopted and the things that are good — and how I feel about it because I would like people to not get uncomfortable when talking to me about it. I want to let everyone know that I am comfortable having conversations about being adopted. I’m not necessarily saying that I want to talk about my adoption all the time but I am saying that when the topic does come up naturally I want both sides to feel comfortable when talking about it.

In our congregation, we have a custom of asking the community a question to generate discussion towards the end of a dvar Torah. I have 2 questions for you today.

The first question I have is, are there other contemporary issues where children don’t have control over what happens to them and they are penalized because of it?

The second one is, are there any topics that you feel are hard to talk about that shouldn’t be that hard to talk about?

Thank you all for your answers and a good discussion.

To conclude, I would like to thank Caroline, my mom, and Paul, my dad, for being there for me, and the rest of my family for coming today. Our great Rabbi Ora for helping me prepare my dvar Torah and having good conversations with me about my Torah portion. Deb who has helped me learn my Torah portion, my Haftorah, and the blessings that go with them. All my friends for supporting me and making me laugh. Martha our exchange student who puts up with me when I’m crazy. Lyndon who helps me practice my bass and Derek who is the best bass teacher in the world. My congregation who has been welcoming since the time I joined it. And finally thank you all for coming, Shabbat Shalom!

Safety and Security at the AARC

by Dave Nelson, AARC Safety Coordinator

Given the recent attacks on American synagogues–and a general rise in
anti-Semitic crime in the U.S. and abroad over the last two years–it’s
natural to worry.

Please be reassured that the entire Jewish community of Ann Arbor–in
coordination with the greater Jewish community of Southeastern Michigan,
national Jewish organizations, and law enforcement–are working to assure
your safety without compromising our commitment to openness and
lovingkindness. Many of these broad, community-wide safety and security
initiatives aren’t new–but they’re now being pursued with greater
coordination, diligence, and a tad more urgency.

That said, our participation as a congregation is new–hence my role, as
“AARC Safety Coordinator.” As a smaller congregation that uses several
locations throughout the year, we have different safety and security
concerns than other congregations. Working with the local Jewish Community Security Committee gives the AARC access to tools that increase our security, and resources that allow us to formulate our own safety best
practices–ones that address our specific safety concerns while reflecting
and promoting our congregational values.

Members of the AARC who’d like to participate in–or simply learn
more about–our ongoing safety and security initiatives should keep an eye
on their inboxes; details will follow via email.

Beit Sefer Picnic and Native Tree Planting

Photos and Article Credit: Fred Feinberg

On Sunday, May 5, Beit Sefer students, teachers, and parents congregated (as congregations do!) at Country Farm Park for not only our annual picnic, but to help plant indigenous fruit trees at County Farm Park’s Pollinator Garden. We all first learned about indigenous vs. non-native species, then donned protective gloves and took up hoes, handsaws, and strangely powerful branch clippers. 

Implements in hand, we helped take several non-native honeysuckle trees down to stumps, clear away debris, and prepare the ground for planting trees and shrubs native to our area — paw paw, American plum, persimmon, and chestnut — learning about each from a park representative. While Gdolim and Yeladim cut away and hauled large branches, Ktanim cleared a patch of ground shrubs and aerated the soil, under the watchful eye and aching backs of parents and teachers.

Afterward, Stacy Weinberg Dieve presented our hardworking teachers and helpers — Clare, Shlomit, Aaron; Zander, Avi, Rose — with tokens our our collective appreciation. We all then gathered at the Pavilion to sing a Hebrew prayer and learn a two-part round from Rabbi Ora, after which we feasted on a variety of seasonal, vegetarian dishes prepared by Beit Sefer families: vegetable casserole, brioche, fruits, challah. The weather was literally perfect, and the children spent the time afterward running and frolicking in the playground. All in all, a wonderfully successful day!

Mimouna and Interfaith Activism: A Call to Justice Work

The tradition of Mimouna originates in a time in Jewish-Muslim relations when communities shared food and traditions to mark the end of Passover. Before the start of Passover, Jews would give away their flour, yeast, and grain to their Muslim neighbors, who at the end of Passover would celebrate Mimouna by bringing sweets to share with their Jewish neighbors. This organic intermixing of traditions was beneficial to both cultural groups.

This tradition emerged in the same period as feudalism, Chaucer, the Vikings, and the Black Plague. From our current age of space ships, solar panels, and nanotechnology, we may believe that civilization has greatly evolved since then. But the act of being civil hasn’t necessarily grown at all.

A group of AARC member met this weekend in honor of Mimouna to discuss how we might cultivate the spirit of this tradition in our time and community. To spark discussion on the topic, Rabbi Ora provided us with a quote from an Aboriginal activist group in Queensland in the 1970s:

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

Aboriginal Activist Group, Queensland, 1970s.

This quote suggests that if we are to do good work, we must work together in a way that lifts us all up as one community. The question was brought to the table: how might we begin this process?

After many ideas from different angles and approaches were shared, the group agreed that Rabbi Ora and members of our community would form a committee to engage with the following ideas:

  • The first proposal was to establish an organizational relationship with Islamic groups in our area. Supporters of this idea would like to initiate relationships between our spiritual leaders, supported by a committee.
  • Another congregant suggested we engage in political activism in relationship to Israel, supporting politicians that advocate for peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • A complementary suggestion was to engage with members of the Muslim community one-on-one, based on already-existing relationships. Many members of our congregation are already participating in various interfaith efforts, including an interfaith book club and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.
  • A final wish was to focus on making a statement. One recommendation was to do so by publishing material in social and print media. Another suggested approach was to craft yard signs, tools for schools, and political support ad campaigns.

If you would like to participate in this interfaith activism committee, please email Rabbi Ora at rabbi@aarecon.org. We will update the community when we have begun taking steps to initiate these goals. What a gift it is to engage in our traditions in a new and invigorating way! L’Chaim!

How We Are Celebrating Mimouna This Year

By: Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

Mimouna is a community celebration that can be traced back to medieval Morocco. Leading up to Passover, Moroccan Jews would turn over their flour, yeast and grain to their Muslim neighbors. On the afternoon of the last day of Passover, these neighbors would show up with gifts of flour, honey, milk, butter, and green beans to be used to prepare post-Passover chametz dishes. That evening, Jews would host a Mimouna meal, sharing cakes, candies, and sweetmeats with their Muslim neighbors.

Last year, AARC held a Mimouna seder, during which we asked ourselves what relationships we already have with our local Muslim communities, and what relationships we want to cultivate.

The massacre at Tree of Life last fall, the massacre in Christchurch weeks ago, and most recently the Easter massacre in Sri Lanka remind us that (to paraphrase the seder’s Vehi She’Amda prayer) in every generation extremists will attempt to sow terror into the heart of religious communities.

The antidote to terror is togetherness. On Saturday night, we’ll have a guided conversation about growing allyship and friendship with our Muslim neighbors. Come with your ideas and questions! Sign up here to attend.

Passover and Counting the Omer

By: Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

Beginning the second night of Passover, Jews around the world will begin counting the omer. The omer is counted every day for 7 weeks, ending with the holiday of Shavuot.

The 49 day-period between Passover and Shavuot marks two kinds of movement through time: the period of time between the first barley offering and the first wheat offering during the Temple era, and the transition from slavery to spiritual liberation.

During the Passover seder we recall the moment when our ancestors took their freedom. Although the Exodus happened in a matter of hours (hence the under-cooked matzah), Jewish tradition teaches that it took considerably longer for the Israelites to truly feel free; only once they received the Torah on Shavuot were the Israelites able to conceive of their role in redemption.

In Michigan, we’re far away from the wheat and barley harvests of Israel, as well as far from the experience of being enslaved. But as spring unfolds for us, counting the omer can help us shake off the stiffness of winter and recommit to the work of tikkun hanefesh (healing the soul) and tikkun olam (healing the world).

Some resources for counting the omer this year:

A brief meditation and exercise for each day from Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Daily themes from a variety of writers on RitualWell

More apps, books, and websites to help you count the omer