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Emor: Down for the Count

Vayikra: 24:15-16

April 9, Day of Omer 9

Dear Diary,

Passover was great. Saw lots of family. Had two wicked Sedarim, although the second ran nasty late. Hung out at the mall with friends. Saw two movies.

We learned the Torah portion about counting the Omer today. Fifty days between Passover and Shavuot. It seems to be a purely agricultural law—something to do with the new grains—but my teachers tell me it is also highly symbolic of the period between when the Israelites left Egypt and when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Apparently, when they left Egypt they were extremely impure and debased—them being slaves and all—and over the 50-day period of counting leading up to the holiday of Shavuot they got their act together, became more holy, and earned the right to receive the Torah.

We just got back to serious school work after Passover break, and it’s now the ninth day of counting the Omer. Is this heightened holiness between Passover and Shavuot supposed to work for all of us? I don’t really feel more holy or pure than I did before we started counting. Let’s see how this thing pans out… I think I’ll shoot for spiritual elevation in 50 days and see what happens. Can I reach the heights like the Israelites? I have 41 more days to find out.

April 18, Day of Omer 18

Yesterday, Becky and I went to Garden State Plaza. I bought flip flops for the summer. Saw a cute shirt at Abercrombie. Might go back to buy it if Mom says yes. Eighteenth day of the Omer. Not feeling more holy yet.

April 20, Day of Omer 20

Feel a bit of something stirring. Is it the start of spiritual elevation or that taco I had before I went to sleep? No more Mexican food before bed.

April 23, Day of Omer 23.

Had a double Chumash class today. Rabbi Stern taught us a Ramban that was pretty cool. Kabbalah and stuff like that. I guess today I feel a little more elevated. Maybe more holy. Keep your fingers crossed!

April 26, Day of Omer 26

Still saying Omer with a bracha! English teacher out sick, so we had a free period. Went to Dunkin’ Donuts with Mike and Esti. Had a latte. Learned about the Inquisition in Jewish history. Navi class was cool. Had to sit with Morgan on the bus home. Bummer. Mixed spirituality day. Kind of a holiness roller coaster.

May 4, Day of Omer 33

Awesome Lag Ba’Omer. Fun day in the park, ending with a kumzitz around a bonfire. Maybe there is something to this Omer heightened spirituality thing. Becky says she’s into Danny Podhoretz, but I don’t really see it. He’s such a nerd. Still, didn’t affect my holiness meter.

May 19, Omer day 41

I think the Israelites were onto something. We had a great night of mishmar learning followed by an overnight sleepover in the school. I heard some great shiurim about Shabbat, and then a guest speaker told us his life story fighting in the I.D.F. during the Six-Day War. Amazing stuff. Then we all stayed up to watch the sunrise. I’m not sure that I am on the level to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai yet, but things are definitely looking up.

May 14, Omer Day 45

Went to the Jewish Home at Rockleigh on a school program and sat and chatted with some adorable older people. Lost a game of backgammon to a guy named Herb. Then we had a class about what we can do to help the greater community. I think I’m getting close to a higher level of spirituality. Not sure I’m ready to receive the Torah yet. I have a good feeling about this… Maybe I’ll see the Avengers movie tomorrow.

May 15, Day of Omer 46

Had a big fight with Mom. Left my room a mess, stayed up too late, argued with Gila. You name it. Kind of crashed spiritually. This whole elevating myself to a higher level thing is tricky.

May 17, Day of Omer 48

Made it almost all the way and still saying Omer with a bracha! Feeling proud, as I usually screw it up in the first week.

I had a long talk with Mrs. Turitz after Navi class today and told her about my 50-day spiritual elevation quest. She said she was proud of me for trying so hard. She also suggested that spirituality is more of an internal thing that gets stronger with thought and commitment to Torah and chesed, good deeds. Mrs. T. also suggested that 50 days may be a tight schedule for spiritual elevation, and that maybe the Israelites in the desert, led by Moshe Rabbeinu and witnessing daily miracles, had an advantage over me for reaching lofty goals on a seven-week plan. She said it’s like a crash diet. You might lose weight quickly, but a long-term plan works better for continued success. I suppose she has a point.

May 22, Day after Shavuot.

I survived the all-night learning. Two cups of coffee and a boatload of cheesecake definitely helped.

I do feel elevated, but I don’t think I reached the level to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai. I think I’ll stick with my spiritual quest, but perhaps with more limited goals. A slow, steady spiritual climb sounds more doable.

Summer is coming. Tomorrow, I begin my quest for an excellent bathing suit.

Life goes on.

By Larry Stiefel

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics. As of publication date, he is still saying Omer with a bracha.

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