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Dr. Alissa C Zuchman, Director, 847-291-7788

Rise Up Wednesday, May 8, 2024 – 30 Nisan 5784

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For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, this is a time for countdowns. Spring has sprung, and summer is almost here. We are in the homestretch before the end of the school year, and I imagine that most students (and probably some educators too) are calculating just how many more days and hours they will need to spend in math class (or Hebrew class) before summer break comes.

For Jewish people who live throughout the world, though, this is a time for countups. We are in the middle of Sefirat ha’Omer—the counting of the Omer—the 49 days, which is seven weeks, from the second day of Passover until we reach Shavuot, a day that many understand to be the culmination of the redemption that began with Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt). However, even though we might be inclined to count down the days as we look with anticipation towards the redemption of Shavuot, we recall the rabbinic idea that we elevate in matters of holiness rather than go down (e.g. Mishnah Menachot 11:7, Tractate Shabbat 21b). Thus, we count up to 49 instead of down to one.

The current state of the world often might feel like one in which the level of sanctity is trending downward. We are in a time when the idea of ascribing three opinions to two Jews seems like an undercount, and the presentation of those opinions seems to be turning more strident as well. Looking forward to Shavuot, though, provides an opportunity to change that trend.

According to tradition, Shavuot marks the day that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people. This upcoming Shabbat, we will read from the weekly Torah portion in which God tells Moses to tell the people “Kedoshim Tihyu (You shall be holy),” which is then followed by many of the ways that the Jewish people should be holy. Some are pretty basic tenets while others might seem more esoteric; all, though, are ways meant to be passed down through generations in order to elevate the Jewish people and, by extension, the world.

As we observe day 15, which is two weeks and one day, in the omer, may we all strive to count ourselves among those elevating not only ourselves to greater levels of holiness but also helping others to do so as well.

Rabbi Eric Zaff