Day 49 of the Omer
May 23, 2015
DAY 49: BACK TO THE SUMMIT
The first seder, he said, is like
an airlift to the top of the mountain.
The matzah, the singing, the egg
dipped in salt water—all mnemonics
for the journey you haven't yet taken.
When you wake the next morning
you're miles away, cloud-shrouded peak
barely visible in the distance.
Remember the psalms of praise we sang
like angelic choirs? It's enough
to get you moving. First week's travel
is fueled by the hardtack of slavery
which doubles as waybread of freedom.
As the feast recedes in memory—was
that oasis a mirage?—the song
that we prayed at the sea spurs you forward.
One morning shards of robin's eggshell
dot the stones outside your door
and you remember the sign of new life
dipped in salt tears. The path
grows steeper but now you're in shape
for the discernment work.
This is our last night camping
beneath the splash of Milky Way.
Tomorrow: the summit. Will you hear
the fire, the thunder, the still small voice?
Will you decode the Name
emblazoned on every human face?
This is the end of the journey.
Make every minute count.
Today is the 49th day of the Omer, making seven weeks of the Omer. This is the final day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation!
Today's poem was inspired by one of my favorite Hasidic teachings, from the Slonimer rebbe. The Slonimer taught that at the first seder we are lifted up to great spiritual heights, and then the next morning we wake and we're at the bottom of the valley again, and we spend the 49 days of the Omer climbing back up to get back to the high spiritual place where we were on the first night of Pesach.
I share this poem in honor of my friend and teacher Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg, who first introduced me to that teaching when I was in rabbinic school (as part of his fantastic class Moadim l'Simcha, in which we spent two semesters translating and studying Hasidic texts relating to the round of the festival year.)
I wish you blessings as we approach Shavuot. I hope that this Omer journey has brought some meaning to these recent weeks.