We all follow rituals for various reasons. In Judaism, I am used to paying attention to the circle that the holidays and ceremonies create to hold the year. I look at the sky, see a full moon, and know which holiday approaches. I know the ancient harvest cycle which we observe today, often with other meanings embraced by those holidays.
Passover begins two new annual cycles. During the morning of the first day, we change from the recitation of the prayer for the bounty that rain during the fall and winter bring, to the gentle mist of dew in the spring and summer. Later that day, after sunset falls, and for those who celebrate a second seder, at the end of that seder, we begin a special count, one that takes us through the next 49 days until, on the 50th day, Shavuot, the ancient late spring harvest arrives. For thousands of years, we have also, on that day, celebrated chag matan Torah the holiday of the giving of the Torah. The ancient Rabbis designated that day as the anniversary of the giving and receiving of the Law.
From Pesach (Passover) until Shavuot, nightly, after sunset, we recite the prayer and count another day of the omer. The omer was a barley offering brought to the Temple. This tradition comes from the Biblical verse in Leviticus (Va’Yikra) 23:15 where it is recorded that you should count seven weeks from the day the offering was brought
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה
So, one might ask, very reasonably, why do I do this. After all, there are many rituals and ceremonies which I do not follow. My answer is simple and complex. It all has to do with family. I did not grow up following this tradition. My dad has been following this, however, for a number of years. Several years ago, one of my sisters joined him for a nightly phone call to count together. I joined them a year ago. When we’re in the same time zone, we count together. When we are not, each of us counts individually and sends a text message to the others letting them know we’ve counted. Rituals keep us together and create memories. A gift I recently received has inscribed on it “family is where your story begins.” I believe that. Do you? What stories do you have?