PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – April 2021
Beginning the second night of Passover we began counting the omer. Omer means sheaf and refers to a measure of volume of unthreshed stalks of grain. We count 49 days or seven weeks. We can think of it as seven cycles of the Creation. It recounts the time between our leaving Egypt and the giving of the Law at Sinai, which we commemorate at Shavuot.
Traditionally, the time of the counting of the omer is a period of semi-mourning during which one is supposed to refrain from haircuts, shaving, listening to instrumental music, or conducting weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing. There is one day these prohibitions are lifted, and that is Lag B’Omer, literally the 33rd day of the Omer. My parents were married on Lag B’Omer. This year, Lag B’Omer falls on April 30.
One of the traditional stories of Lag B’Omer is that it was the day on which the plague which had afflicted the students of Rabbi Akiva ended, after killing 24,000 of them and leaving just 5. There are other stories and explanations, but this year in particular the vision of a plaguelifting seems to resonate most strongly.
By Lag B’Omer this year, all adults in our state and in many places in the country will be eligible to receive one of the three COVID-19 vaccines that will help to lift the plague which has afflicted our lives for more than a year. Although there is still concern over rising numbers which may be attributable to virus variants or the premature lifting of precautions, we can see the end of this pandemic and a gradual progress toward “normal life” (although we’re not exactly sure what that will look like).
Lag B’Omer is traditionally commemorated with outings (during which children traditionally play with bows and arrows), bonfires, parades and other joyous events. Clearly, we cannot indulge in all these activities yet, but we can enjoy some more normal activities with precaution. And of course, after Lag B’Omer the counting resumes until Shavuot. So while we can rejoice at the expansion of vaccine availability and the recent decline of incidence of serious illness, we still have to be cautious, follow guidelines, and take precautions, until we arrive at our destination, our public health “Sinai,” (where we will surely receive a new set of mandates carved in stone!)
Diane is now just about two weeks past her second vaccination, I am about a week past my first. Our son will soon be eligible for his vaccination and we are looking forward to the day, not too far off, when we can again hug as a family for the first time in over a year.
If we all just do what we need to do just a little while longer, we will soon be able to gather together again as a Temple family. We have so much to look forward to! So keep washing your hands, wear a mask when out, maintain social distancing, and get that vaccine. Better days are coming!
— IRA L. GOLDSTEIN, President