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Chizuk Amuno Congregation

Counting Down

There was something perfectly perfect about being pregnant during the omer. For weeks I quietly counted the days, weeks and months as I watched a new life grow. Then, beginning on the second night of Passover, the whole Jewish community joined in counting as well. It felt as if we were on parallel journeys.

At week 12 it was the middle of the Omer period and we celebrated Lag Ba’omer, the thirty third day of the Omer. This day interrupts the sadness as historically, it is the day on which the plague that killed 30,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students finally abated. Lag Ba’omer is the time that we get those long delayed haircuts, we listen to music, we attend weddings, and we take a break from our communal mourning. In one of those strange quirks of fate, my first trimester ended that week so on Lag Ba’omer I joined the many others in celebrating with a haircut and some long overdue highlights. It had been well over 15 years since I was a real blonde, and the first three months of pregnancy were hard enough without being forced to endure inches of dark roots.

That year, for the first time in many years, I missed a day of counting the omer. I think that it might have been day 22. Chalk it up to being preoccupied or more likely, morning sickness that was really afternoon and evening sickness, but no matter why, it still disqualified me. For the next four weeks of the omer I could not recite the blessing for counting the omer, rather I just counted the days. I was disappointed in myself and felt out of touch with the community. The ritual was there, but it felt incomplete.

The lesson was a hard one, especially at a time when ritual provided comfort and regularity when so much was changing. But it reminded me that each day was part of the journey, and ignoring even one wondrous moment made me ineligible for blessing that time around. I tried to remember that lesson for my pregnancy as well. On the days when even brushing my teeth made me nauseous, the omer was a brief reminder that every moment counted.

Of course Shavuot came earlier than my own counting ended. The community celebrated the end of its up-wards count with the retelling of the revelation at Sinai. I however kept counting until December when my daughter was born, and then began counting again – the days, weeks and months of her life.

This year, both of my kids join me in counting the omer. We use our new edible omer counter and the kids’ excitement in counting is due more to the candy they get each night after we count than the mitzvah itself. But as it was for me, they are also drawn to the ritual in the comfort and regularity it provides.