Torah for this Hour | May 2, 2024

“The world is in sorrow from Pesaḥ to Shavu’ot because of the crops and the trees. Therefore the Blessed Holy One commanded us to count those days…” (Abudraham). As long as the ripe crops were not harvested there was good reason for concern! Every moment was put to use to get to the end of 49 days and complete the harvest. There was no free time for parties and festivals: weddings were delayed until the end of the summer, and holidays to the autumn months. The Rabbis added another reason for refraining from celebrations during the counting of the Omer: the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students.

Sorrow over the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students, killed in the second century, pales in comparison to the mourning over the six million murdered in the twentieth century. On the other hand we must say, “Recent celebratory events diminish (do not wipe from our minds!) earlier sorrowful events. That is, the establishment of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem are partial recompense for the Exile and the Holocaust. Whoever believes that the covenant between the Jewish people and our God is alive and well marks the holidays in Iyyar, Yom Ha-Atzma’ut and Yom Yerushalayim—which occur during the counting of the ‘Omer—with Hallel and celebration!