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Day Twenty of the Omer

Pesach is now behind us, and the fifty days between that Festival and Shavuot mark an extraordinary number of commemorations that range from the most ancient to the most modern of our people’s history. We being with the birth of the nation in the Exodus from Egypt, and end it with Shavuot which reminds us not only of the giving of the Ten commandments on Mount Sinai, but also the giving of the first fruits in the Temple in Jerusalem. In between, fifty days of the Omer are days of semi mourning in memory of the oppression of Jews under the Romans, and the failure of the revolts against them. Then there is Lag B’Omer – the thirty third day, which witnessed a brief change in fortunes for the beleaguered Jews of the time. Less than a week after the end of Pesach, when we commemorate the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites at the Red Sea, we will remember a period when deliverance was not so sure. The abortive uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, and all the other victims of the Holocaust are recalled on Yom ha Shoah. A week later, and more of our Nations dead are remembered on Yom ha Zikaron – the day of memorial for those who gave their lives for the emerging State of Israel. The day after it is Yom Ha’atzma’ut - Israel’s independence day, and this looks forward to the last week of the Omer period and its 44th day when Yom Yerushalayim commemorates the reunification of the city in the Six Day War.

Thus in fifty days we range over three thousand five hundred years of history. We see victories and defeats, celebrations and mourning. We observe Festivals that are at the core of our being as Jews, we see half festivals, not-really-festivals, and festivals in the making. We see the dynamism and the forward thrust of Judaism which continues to create liturgy and ritual through which to express the most contemporary of events, and we look forward to messianic age promised in all our celebrations at this time But as we look forward, we also remember, are reminded, have memory of, recall, memorialise, commemorate, reminisce. All these events have one thing in common, both past and future, the fate of the nation of Israel. We are all Israel, and what happens to the land remains even today integral to what happens to the people. It may be hard sometimes, to offer wholehearted support, but Israel is much greater than the politics of its State. On Yom Ha’atsma’ut, and its attendant days, we should celebrate as they celebrate, weep as they weep, and remember our connection to the land is that of an umbilical cord of a child to its mother’s womb. Sever it, and both can die.


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