S’firat HaOmer – Counting the Omer and the Journey from Liberation to Revelation

route_mitzvot_613_greeting_cards-rd62dd233cd684143b6d8ab35ac11d274_xvuak_8byvr_512Our tradition provides us with so many mitzvot (commandments or obligations) and many of us spend our entire lives only observing those which feel familiar or comfortable – those which we learned from our parents or which are most clearly identified with “being Jewish.”  Lighting the Sabbath candles, saying kiddush over wine, placing a mezzuzah on our doorpost, eating matzah on Passover, fasting on Yom Kippur – these are “Judaism 101″ mitzvot.  There are other mitzvot which we know about but make a conscious decision NOT to observe because we determine that they do not enhance our sense of living a meaningful Jewish life.  And there are still other mitzvot that may never rise to our consciousness to observe.

colorfulomerchartOne mitzvah that is not prevalent among less observant Jews is the mitzvah of counting the Omer.  The omer (literally, in Hebrew, “a measure”) was an offering of the first of the new grain harvest, which was brought to the Temple on the 16th of Nisan (the second day of Passover), when the Temple still stood in Jerusalem and we were an agrarian people.  Torah tells us that we are to keep count until seven full weeks have elapsed and on the 50th day, we are to bring two full loaves of bread as an offering and hold a celebration (Shavuot – “weeks” in Hebrew)(Lev. 23:15-21).  The Torah does not tell us why, just that we are to do this counting.  Later, our sages linked Shavuot and the revelation of Torah on Sinai and the omer became a way to mark the transition from avdei pharaoh (slaves of Pharaoh) to avdei HaShem (God’s servants).  The Kabbalists then connected each day with an ascension from impurity to holiness by combining mystical attributes (s’firot) which represent both divine and human characteristics.  This mystical approach creates a way to prepare ourselves to receive Torah – renewing ourselves through an examination of our connection to the Source.

Counting the Omer is a short ritual that is done at night (at the beginning of a new day) and there are many creative and traditional resources you can draw upon for guidance. All siddurim (prayerbooks) have the basic prayers for counting the omer.  Other resources can be found on our Deliciously Different Resource page.

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Little Minyan’s Passover Potluck Seder/Seudah Shlishit shel Shabbat

The Little Minyan Kehilla will gather at 5:30 p.m. on the 6th night of Pesach (Saturday, matzahspringApril 19th) for a “potluck seder.”  We will share food and our favorite parts of the seder as we continue our observance and
appreciation of the journey from oppression to freedom.  A sign up sheet is accessible by clicking HERE.  Please bring a dish to share and, if you wish, your commentary on a part of the seder that you find particularly meaningful, a poem, a reading, or a picture.

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Erev Shabbat Service – Shabbat HaGadol

The Little Minyan will gather this Friday evening, April 11th/10 Nisan, 7:30 pm to welcome the Shabbat HaGadol – the Shabbat just before Pesach – with a contemplative service incorporating some of the deeper themes of this sacred time of year.  In particular we will look at the Haftarah selection for Shabbat HaGadol and how the words (both harsh and soothing) ascribed to the prophet Malachai resonate with us.

The Passover narrative, so embedded in the Jewish psyche inspires us to contemplate theexodus-reed-sea ways in which we can free ourselves from our own constricted places.  The great Hasidic teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav suggested that the deeper teaching within the hurried exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is this: when we taste freedom and desire it, we must act with haste to move toward it.  If we spend to much time deliberating, trying to figure out how the future will unfold, we may lose our courage to move toward liberation.  

In every generation, we are to approach Passover as if WE are being liberated from Mitzrayim.  In addition to all of the cleaning, cooking, and celebration, how will we prepare ourselves for Pesach, spiritually?  What will we take with us on our journey out of Mitzrayim (Hebrew for Egypt AND “narrow places”)?  How will we move forward with faith and awe?

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Little Minyan Welcomes Atid Columbus for Kabbalat Shabbat Dinner and Erev Shabbat Service

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The Little Minyan is delighted to be joined by members of Atid Columbus for Shabbat oneg/joy.  We will begin with a potluck dinner followed by worship and conversation. 6:00 p.m. – Potluck supper ~ vegetarian, locally sourced, and yummy!  (Adult oriented … Continue reading

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Welcoming Shabbat HaChodesh and SPRING!

Over the past several decades, the Jewish Environmental movement has inspired many of us to exercise our Jewish “muscle memory” to recall that we were a People of the Land
long before we were called the People of the Book. Our holy days, our daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal cycles, our law, literature, and ritual, all draw strongly from our roots as a Biblically agrarian People deeply tied to the natural world and its cycles.

Last week, the Gregorian calendar told us spring had arrived based on the spring equinox. hebrew_calendar-1024x700This week, the Hebrew calendar and Torah prepare us to welcome aviv/spring.  On Shabbat HaChodesh, the last Shabbat before the new moon of Nisan, we read Torah from the yearly cycle and add a special portion (Shmot/Exodus 12:1-20), which states, “this month shall be the head month/rosh chodesh for you, the first month of the year” and goes on to tell us how to observe Pesach/Passover.

Passover, the quintessential spring holiday, has deep roots in the natural cycle and the birth and renewal of the earth’s bounty in addition to its role of commemorating and celebrating a central narrative of Judaism ~ our passage from oppression to freedom. lambThe celebration of Passover did not begin with the Haggadah/the telling we all now know so well.  As explained in the attached teaching of Rabbi Mordechai Leibling, it began with the combination of two ancient Canaanite spring holidays: one, the shepherds’ spring celebration hag ha pesach, the sacrifice of a lamb to mark new births; and the second the farmers’ hag ha aviv, the holiday of ripening barley, also know as hag ha matzahspringmatzot, the feast of unleavened breads. These two holidays were celebrated at different times during the month of Aviv and were merged with the feast of the pascal lamb recounted in the book of Exodus resulting in the festival of Pesach beginning on the full moon of Aviv. (In Babylonian exile the month’s name was changed to Nissan, meaning first fruits.)

For those intrigued by the inner workings of the Hebrew calendar and the way our lunar calendar manages to regularly realign itself with the seasons, it is interesting to note that this was accomplished purely by natural observation prior to the 4th century CE mathematical computation we now use to add an extra month of Adar 7 times in 19 years to keep the lunar and solar calendars in synch.  We are told in Shmot 13:4 and 23:15 to barleycelebrate Pesach in the month of Aviv. In Shmot 9:31-32, describing the effect of the plague of hail on the crops, the word aviv is is used to describe a stage in the development of the barley crop when it is vulnerable to damage by hail.  Agricultural study teaches us that this stage occurs in the plant 15- 21 days before the barley can be harvested.

The Bible instructs that the cutting of the first barley sheaves had to take place during Passover.  Knowing this and that the parley had to be ripe to be harvested, the rabbis of the Talmud taught that Pesach had to come after the equinox and the barley had to be ready, thus, on the last day of Adar the barley must be inspected and, if it was not yet in the stage of aviv (2-3 weeks from ripening), an extra month was declared (adar sheini ~ a second Adar).

In other words, in order to properly fulfill our rituals we have to be in synch with the earth.  After the Temple was no longer standing in Jerusalem and the barley did not need to be brought to the Temple, the rabbis replaced visual observation with mathematical computation, and the nature aspect of Pesach and the other Pilgrimage festivals began to dwindle in consciousness and practice.

Today, however, with increasing awareness of and sensitivity to our (human) impact on the environment and the role of the natural world in our spiritual development and speak with the earthdivine service, we are renewing those aspects of Judaism that help us to recognize and reestablish our deep connection with the earth and our role as a People of the land.  May these connections restore a reciprocally nourishing relationship between our religious observance and the seasons of the earth and may the arrival of Aviv/Spring and Nisan elevate us in our sacred pursuits.

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Purim Revelry with Little Minyan Mishpacha

Purim is a holiday with many layers and many messages.  Is Purim about clever concealment and timely revelation of identity?  Is it about bravery in the face of insidious evil?  Is it about charity and care for our neighbors and friends?  Is it … Continue reading

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Opportunities to Live Torah in Our Midst and Calling Us to Action – Now is the Time!

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The most fundamental foundational principles of Judaism reside in the way we treat others and the work we do in service of justice.  We are taught repeatedly – through Torah and our sages (ancient and modern) – that it is … Continue reading

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Erev Shabbat Service on February 14th to Link Liturgy with Music of Pete Seeger

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Pete Seeger, of blessed memory, was a man who gave voice to ideals at the heart of many religious traditions and most certainly spoke to our Jewish values of  communal responsibility, justice, and environmental stewardship.  His death, earlier this month, … Continue reading

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“Reb” Pete Seeger, z”l, Leaves Us a Legacy of Tikkun Olam

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When we lose a person we love, someone who inspired and enlivened us, sadness and mourning are natural. It is common in Jewish teaching, to honor the memory of the dead by teaching in their honor. Preserving the thought and … Continue reading

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Little Minyan’s 8th Annual Tu B’Shvat Intergenerational Celebration with a New Twist – January 18th

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One of the finest examples of the renewal of Jewish ritual is found in the holiday of Tu B’Shvat – Torah’s legalistic birthday of the trees marking a time for tithing. Over the millennia, this holiday has be adapted to … Continue reading

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