Thursday, April 23, 2009

Counting Our Days

It is during this time of year, between the second day of Passover and the festival of Shavuot that we count the "Omer": 49 days between the Exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah at Sinai - a journey from slavery to redemption. By counting the days between these two holidays, we are connecting these two experiences and remembering the difficulties that all people have endured over our history.

I have mixed feelings about the idea of counting our days. On one hand, I understand that this is meant to be a period of mourning, a measure of respect for the past. But does the counting take us out of the present moment? Are we living our days as T.S. Eliot says with measured “coffee spoons?” Are we so caught up in the counting that we are not able to be present in the moment? Or is it the counting that forces us to be cognizant of the limitations of our time? In short, are we counting our days in order to make our lives count for something?

I prefer the latter interpretation. If we felt that our time was without end, what would be the motivating force for us to accomplish something with our lives? Isn’t it scarcity rather than abundance that gives something its value? If gold could be found under every rock, would it be selling for $900 an ounce? Perhaps it is because we realize that our days are numbered that we are truly able to appreciate the laughter with our friends, the fleeting beauty of a sunset and even the times of sadness. All of these things remind us of the opportunity we have to be alive, in this time, and in this place. I hope that not just during the Omer, but at all times, that we choose to make our lives count.

Be well,

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat

Tonight marks the beginning of the celebration of Passover in the Jewish tradition. There is a saying that we should “let all who are hungry come and eat.” It is a mitzvah (commandment, good deed) to invite a stranger to your Passover seder. During the meal we recount the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It is a story we are all familiar with, and yet each year we find something new to focus on and hopefully find meaningful within the course of the meal.

It is a celebration of freedom. And as with any Jewish celebration (besides Yom Kippur) it involves food. Just as there are many ways to define freedom, there are an equal number of ways to define food. Are we filling ourselves with junk food and shoving it down on our way to our next activity? Or are we eating healthy things and savoring each bite? Are we spending our time on meaningless conversations and empty rituals, or are we giving ourselves the things that will truly satisfy us?

Whether you are celebrating Passover or not, I hope this night is different from all others. I hope that we are able to celebrate with friends and family. I hope that we are able to open ourselves to those around us and to new experiences. And most of all, I hope we choose to fill ourselves with the things that make our lives healthy, spiritual and whole.

Be well,