June 2, 2024
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June 2, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

For some reason, the hardest mitzvah to remember seems to be Sefiras HaOmer. Which is crazy for a mitzvah that we do 49 times a year.

As my son pointed out, “A lot of times the way to remember to do something is to do it in the morning.” No one forgets Shacharis.

And yes, we have reminders everywhere. Every one of my kids’ schools sent us a chart; we have charts on every surface. That doesn’t mean we see them. Anything that’s up for 30 days you get used to being there. The Omer calendar is up for two weeks before the Omer even starts. There has to be a change for you to notice it.

And yes, I can make minor changes to the papers on the various refrigerators and doors. I have one paper that I’m supposed to cross off a line when I count—if I remember and if I have a pen on me and if it’s not Shabbos and if no one has yet to count after me, and I also have to remember to go around the house crossing off other lines or moving little magnets around on every reminder. It’s like changing the clocks. Right now, every Omer-reminder chart in my house is on a different day.

I want to get a pillowcase for my bed that says on it in big letters, “Omer!” I can use it at the Seder the second night and then leave it on my bed until Shavuos, and every night I will come upstairs and see it, unless my wife has already turned off the lights. In which case I’ll see it in the morning. Maybe it should glow in the dark. The rest of the year it would live in the closet and only come out if we have too many guests, so that a guest can lie on it and wonder what’s up with the pillowcase.

Also, the penalty for missing Sefirah doesn’t really seem like enough. You missed a night, you can’t count anymore. Well, you can, but not with a bracha. It’s not like with bentching, where if you forget Yaaleh V’yavo you have to start over.

“You missed a night? You have to start again from number one. And you can’t celebrate Shavuos until you get to the end. No cheesecake until you’re done.”

It’s crazy that we can’t keep up Omering with a bracha. Like you never hear anyone say, “How do you like that? I made it all the way to the end of Chanukah lighting with a bracha! There were no nights that I forgot, and I was like, “Is it shkiyah yet? Can I still light for last night?”

“What night of Chanukah is it?”

“Last night was six.”

And you can say, “Yeah, but Chanukah’s only eight nights.”

I don’t think it matters. Are you saying that everybody who forgets the Omer makes it to the eighth night?

I think it’s because we actually do something physical for Chanukah. You can’t forget; the menorahs are sitting out, and we can see if we added a candle or not.

I’m not suggesting that we light 49 nights of candles for the Omer, adding one more every night. By the end, the fires would be huge. Is that how Lag BaOmer bonfires got started?

The only other thing we forget like this is Ushpizin. “Which day’s Ushpizin is it right now? Can I still invite yesterday’s ushpizin? What nusach are we?” By the end of Sukkos, I can no longer say Ushpizin with a bracha.

And anyway, on Chanukah, even if you forget, there are enough Chanukah parties to remind you. There are no Omer parties. That makes it really hard. The first night we have a Seder, which is kind of a party, and then nothing until the 33rd. How did you make it to the 33rd? Someone must have been counting.

Relatively speaking, sefirah is so unceremonial. It’s such an easy mitzvah to do that it’s hard to remember. You don’t gather your family around the window and sing and sit for a half hour afterwards admiring the numbers. Maybe we should hang numbers. It would confuse all the mailmen.

“Why is every house 32?! Oh, except this one!”

But clearly we have to do something to improve our memory. Like maybe—and I’m not just saying this because we’re Jewish—maybe there’s something we can eat. And baruch Hashem, I’ve just come across a study that says that consuming wine and cheese may reduce cognitive decline. Which totally explains how we don’t forget Chanukah. Though it doesn’t explain the story of the Greek general that Yehudis killed. Maybe there’s an upper limit on how much wine.

And when else do we have wine and cheese? Shavuos. After the Omer is done. Shavuos is when we reduce our cognitive decline.

The only other relevant recent study I could find is that one thing that helps people remember things in a major way is turning it into a song.

I mean, we all know bentching by heart, right? Because it has a tune. It’s not a particularly good tune and there is no second more exciting tune for bentching that I know of, but we all know it.

And think about the parts of davening that most people know by heart—it’s all the ones with songs: Modeh Ani, the 12th Ani Maamin, Ashrei … And now think about the tefillos that people don’t know by heart—it’s all the ones without songs. Hamapil, all the other Ani Maamins, Vehi Noam V’atah Kadosh … In fact, just look at the difference between the two things you say every Rosh Chodesh—Hallel and Barchi Nafshi. Which one do you know by heart, even though it’s longer? That’s why I think more of davening should be songs.

I am not Litvish.

But then the one thing that can help us remember things—music—is not okay during Sefirah until we’re 33 days in.

What’s the one day everyone remembers? Lag B’Omer. Because there’s music!

And to make matters worse, the only kind of music we do listen to during Sefirah is A Capella songs. About Chanukah!

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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