Today is the 8th day of the Omer, the 9th day since Passover began. This past shabbes during Yizkor – the Jewish service for remembering our loved ones – we sang Psalm 90, verse 12. Rabbi Martin Samuel Cohen translates this line: “Make known to us the best way to count our days, so that we may develop hearts of wisdom,” while our beloved Rebbe Zalman offers: “Make us aware enough to treasure our days; a wide heart brings vision.”
Many of us feel more than a little lost right now, truth be told. Today, marks two weeks since the shooting of 10 innocent people at King Soopers in South Boulder. On a personal note, tomorrow, it will be 8 months since my sister disappeared off of a boat in Indonesia. This Wednesday, the Boulder Jewish community comes together to commemorate the deaths of so many at the hands of the National Socialists and their allies. While just a few weeks ago, the Boulder Jewish community gathered to mark a year of Covid-19. So many losses – and, still, we reach for the strength to treasure our days.
How can we hear the call to “widen our hearts” in the face of uncertainty and grief, that we may embrace hope and renewal? One traditional answer is by means of counting the Omer – 49 days (7 weeks). Counting can bring meaning, awareness, possibility, and allow for new insights and experiences, even as we mourn our losses. Today marks 1 week and 1 day of the Omer. We have completed the first week of Chesed/Lovingkindness and begun the week of G’vurah/Strength. G’vurah is a structuring energy, helping us create new healthy grooves and boundaries as we move towards a renewed encounter with sacred wisdom, with our wise hearts, on Shavuot. Staying the course is heroic (another aspect of g’vurah); we keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what. Thankfully, we do not have to journey alone. We have each other – and we pray each morning to the One “ha’mechin metzadei gaver,” Who makes human steps firm. We pray to be guided on our journeys, called forth onto healing paths, paths of consequence, days of treasure. And we count…day by day, week by week.
I love to count. I self-soothe my way across oceans on airplanes counting down the hours, the minutes, the seconds to the moment I will be safely back on the ground. I live through anxiety-producing medical procedures counting one breath and then another. And then there is the counting attached to joyful anticipation – when we will finally be ‘on the other side’ of this pandemic, when we will hug a loved one, when the trees will wear green again. Whether counting away from things that hurt, or towards something for which we yearn, the counting itself can bring comfort and structure to the journey. It can remind us that our lives count, our choices matter, each and every one of us is uniquely loved and formed. And each death is a unique and irrevocable loss. May all of the individual and collective losses grant us the courage, the awareness, and the strength, to treasure our days, to grow our hearts in wisdom, to cultivate connection and hope, to make of our lives a blessing, one day at a time, this very day.