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eJUDAISM: COUNTING THE DAYS, ALL KINDS

04/23/2020 08:27:09 PM

Apr23

Michael Greenfield

This current period, between Passover marking the Exodus and Shavuot marking the giving of the Torah at Sinai, was the beginning of wandering the desert for 40 years, and it later became a period of counting the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot. According to Jewish tradition, it was towards the end of this period that manna first appeared and miraculously fed the Jewish people until they reached Israel. According to the rabbis, any extra manna that was taken would rot overnight. There was no value in taking more than you needed. The only exception was for Shabbat - each person took a double portion on Friday so that they would not have to labor on Shabbat for their food.
 
For those of us who are counting days right now - days since, days until - if you're feeling some anxiety around that, you're not alone. Wendy Mogel, the wonderfully insightful author of books on Jewish parenting, has some advice that's specific to this moment. Even if your kids aren't young or even if you don't have kids, this is a good moment to parent yourself. Her work is based on Talmud which tends to be surprisingly ahead of its time. She has noted that the Talmud commands parents to teach their children to swim. Why? Well, first of all...Jewish parents...lots of worrying...safety...and not right after you eat! But it's also a great metaphor. We all need to know how to move through something without drowning in it, which is really a two-part skill: continuing to move forward and pausing to take a breath. If you've only got one of those on your to-do list, this is a good moment to look for some balance.
 
This year is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. We marked that milestone this week with the screening of The Euphoria of Being and a conversation with the amazing 95-year-old dancer and Auschwitz survivor at the heart of the film. If you missed the screening, you'll need to wait for it to stream somewhere else, but you can watch our conversation with her and the film's director and truly be inspired to make your days count.
 
If you're counting the days until symphony hall or the stadium or the movie theaters re-open, the folks at Israel's Genesis Prize want to remind you that when they do, there will be Jews in the middle of it all, including (in a brief shot) a teammate of our own olympian Dave Nicholls.
 
Shiva is the seven days we count as being the most intense period of grieving, but then comes Shloshim, the first 30-day period, because those first seven disappear in a blink. After that we switch to counting the first year of mourning because, really, what is a month compared to a full life life well-lived. Soren Kierkegaard said that "life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." I don't actually read Kierkegaard, but I'm re-reading Safe At Home and that's the quote that opens the book. Joanne hasn't stopped teaching me something valuable every time I encounter her. Even now. And I know I speak for so many of us when I say that. She was equally accomplished at moving through things and also at pausing to take a breath. She was uncannily good at doing both of them at the same time when she caught you with those sparkling eyes while giving your conversation her undivided attention. She was very good at Now.
 
The poet and Torah teacher Alicia Jo Rabins said it this way:
 
Now
like manna
is perfectly sufficient
and will rot
if stored.
 
Stay connected to your loved ones, stay healthy, stay moving, stay still. Also, do some Jewish and let us know how we can help.
Fri, August 7 2020 17 Av 5780