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This Social Justice Omer calendar of readings arose from a suggestion by TBS member Penny Zuschlag during one of our Ritual Forum meetings. The idea is to make the Omer period – the seven weeks from Pesach to Shavuot – more meaningful for our members.
Traditionally, some people would count each day of the Omer, perhaps also reflecting on a specific combination of Kabbalistic concepts relevant to the particular day. This calendar of readings uses the Omer differently. Our tradition suggests that the Israelites in Egypt had assimilated so much that they had almost lost their Jewish identity before the Exodus at Pesach. It took them the period of the Omer to improve themselves so that they might be deserving of receiving Torah on Sinai at Shavuot. Through this calendar of readings, we focus not just on improving ourselves as our spiritual ancestors did, but also on improving the world, for we believe that both of these must happen at the same time. Talmud records a discussion between Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva, in which Rabbi Tarfon says that action is greater than study while Rabbi Akiva says that study is greater than action. Other Rabbis hearing the discussion conclude that “Study is greater because it leads to action.” With that in mind, our calendar of readings starts each day with study and then directs you towards action.
You may find some of the Jewish texts surprising. In every topic we could have selected many more texts but chose these in order to stimulate thought and discussion. You may also find some of the areas of focus challenging or emotionally difficult. If you would like to talk confidentially with Rabbi Neil about anything you read here, please do get in touch.
The readings will be posted one day at a time. Every page will have Jewish source material that relates to the topic of the day, as well as information on how you might respond in practical ways. We look forward to sharing a unique and enriching Omer experience with you.
Rabbi Neil Amswych
Rebecca Baran-Rees, Director of Social Justice