Tag Archives: omer

36 Days, 36 Years, and Ruptured Counting

I am sitting in the liminal moments, bein ha’sh-mashot (literally, between the suns)—the window between day and night—as we bid farewell to the 35th day of the Omer but, where I am, cannot yet count the 36th day. And I have just read the terrible news about an old friend, a fellow rabbi with whom I studied in Jerusalem, whose younger brother just died suddenly, in the day that has just ended, at the age of 36. His life has been cut short at the age that is double-life (18=chai), just before he or anyone who knew him or loved him would be counting the 36th day of this liminal time between sacred occasions, between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot.

The deceased’s brother and other immediate relatives are now in their own liminal moment known as aninut, the period between learning of the death of a next-of-kin and fulfilling the mitzvah of k’vod hameit (honoring the dead) with a speedy and proper burial. During this time, those who are responsible for burying their loved one are exempt from all positive commandments. They perform no sacred rituals or deeds, focusing only on the one, new responsibility that has befallen them.

My friend, therefore, will not be counting the 36th Day of the Omer tonight. His brother’s life has ended at age 36. His own counting is cut short just before reaching that number. While my friend will still make it to Sinai in 2 weeks (technically cutting short the 30-day period of mourning, yet another interruption), his arrival there will be under severely compromised emotional circumstances. The journey will not feel complete without his brother, just as his ritual counting of all 49 days will not be complete. Like the garment he will soon tear as an outward sign of the irreparable rupture in his life, so too, his counting of this season is torn asunder, never to be completed, never even reaching the number 36 in days that his brother barely achieved in years.

And so, as I feel tremendous sadness for my friend and his family, I turn towards the night, the darkness. And I accept humbly my own opportunity and responsibility to count. I count for those ripped from us in untimely fashion and I count for those still with us but whose attention has been turned to more pressing matters, to matters of life and death. I count for life on this day that signifies double life. And I dedicate tonight’s counting to my friend who will not count, who is grieving, who is preparing to fully say farewell to his brother and begin the grueling process of mourning. I’m counting for you, my friend.

Hin’ni muchan um’zuman l’kayem mitzvat aseih shel s’firat ha’omer k’mo she’katuv batorah…
Here I am, ready and prepared to fulfill the positive commandment of counting the Omer as it is written in the Torah…

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YankeeOmerCount #5: Joe DiMaggio

Yankee-Omer-Count #5: Joe DiMaggio

by Rabbi Rick Brody

A series of 49 reflections on the number of the day in the counting of the omer, paired with the corresponding uniform number worn by one or more members of the New York Yankees throughout the team’s history.

The intention of these posts (other than sharing the hitherto concealed, true mystical meanings of the sacred counting ritual) is to invite readers–especially those who love both baseball (even if not the Yankees!) and Jewish life–to find new ways to appreciate the particular number for each each day, to gain more enjoyment in the process of counting, and to intensify one’s double love for Torah and baseball. The fact that almost all of this counting always coincides with the early part of the Major League Baseball regular season (this year, it will include the first 6 weeks of the season) elevates the connection even further.

Joltin’ Joe, The Yankee Clipper

#5 for the Yankees is Joe DiMaggio. His number was retired by the Yankees in 1952 and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. He played a short but illustrious 13 years, all for the Yankees, in which the team won 10 American League pennants and 9 World Series championships. He is most known for his astounding and legendary streak of 56 consecutive games with a hit in 1941, a record that still stands.

Today, the 5th Day of the Omer, is associated with the mystical quality of Hod, the 5th of the lower 7 sephirot (mystical emanations of Divinity). Hod is Splendor/Submission. Technically, the 5th day of the Omer is Hod within Chesed, which is love/kindness/unbounded enthusiasm. Hod is associated with the Biblical Aharon, the 1st High Priest, who is known throughout Jewish lore for his quiet, grace in initiating the priesthood, being a peacemaker within the Israelite camp, and silently accepting the tragic loss of his two sons.

Joltin’ Joe was a quiet and modest hero, an embodiment of consistent grace who, between his prowess on the field and his class and patriotism off of it, was practically the walking definition of an American icon in the middle of the 20th century. He was the standard against whom future celebrity heroes were measured. As we lament, in Jewish tradition, the dissolution of a functioning priesthood that was begun by Aharon, the Biblical representative of Hod, so too, we have asked, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”

Hod is associated with the left leg of the human body. As a right-handed hitter, perhaps the greatest in Yankees history, DiMaggio would stand at the plate leading with his left leg.

DiMaggio is also remembered fondly for his brief marriage to and long-time friendship with Marilyn Monroe (who converted to Judaism shortly after their marriage ended, while she was married to Arthur Miller). This relationship signifies the role that love played in DiMaggio’s life, and helps us understand #5 as Hod within Chesed, splendor in loving-kindness.

On this, the 5th day of the Omer, may we find ways to capture the best qualities of Joe DiMaggio, quietly, gracefully, and consistently striving for excellence.