Rabbi Jonathan Malamy, Director of Meaningful Life

Greetings Jewish Home Manhattan

Today is Tuesday, May 12.

Buckle up, because we have a lot to cover today.

If it were only May 12, the culmination of Nurses’ Week, that would be enough. Or as we say in my tradition, dayenu! 

But this May 12 is not just an ordinary end to nurses’ week. Sure it falls, as usual, on the birthday of Florence Nightingale. But today is a significant birthday for Ms. Nightingale. It’s her bicentennial. Two hundred years over which the modern nursing profession has grown to the proud state it is in today. So again, dayenu! Surely that’s enough.

But there’s more. The pride that we take from our working in keeping with her legacy, was so beautifully recognized at noon today as the 24th NYPD Precinct and NYFD Engine 76 and Ladder 22 drove by The New Jewish Home, honking their horns, blooping their sirens and waving in appreciation of the work of all staff here through this crisis. It is moving that those whose courage and efforts we so often celebrate, took a turn to celebrate our team of Health Care Heroes at The New Jewish Home. To be honored by those we honor is a rare and special thing. So, now, surely dayenu! Enough?

What else could there be? Well, there’s this. To top it all off, today is Log B’omer. (cue *record scratch sound). Log B’omer?! What, you say, is that? It’s one of those obscure-ish Jewish observances. Jews count the 49 days from Passover until Shavuot. And that period of seven weeks is called The Omer. It’s seen as a time of anxiety, even mourning.  Ancient people were anxious because in an agricultural, middle eastern society those weeks — and the rain that either fell or didn’t fall during them — determined whether people would be economically secure over the next year. Big harvest, big relief. Small harvest, scarcity and poverty. And there was nothing to do but wait, and hope, and watch the skies, and pray. During this time some Jewish traditions forbid everything from weddings to haircuts, really any big planning for the future. And that’s a bit like the current crisis. People are stuck at home. Social media is full of folks finding creative haircut solutions. Weddings and other celebrations are being postponed left and right. Why is this Omer different from all the others. During this Omer, the whole world is participating in one way or another.

But Log B’omer, which simply means the 33rd day of the Omer, is a traditional break from all that. It is a day of rejoicing and celebration in the midst of mourning and anxiety. Our ancestors set aside their worries about their crops and held picnics outside and lit celebratory bonfires. And that’s what we have done in allowing the community’s celebration to lift our spirits.

One particular Log B’omer tradition resonates especially strongly. It is told that during the 2nd Century that Rabbi Akiva, a famous teacher of the period, had tens of thousands of students. During a particular year, many of the students became ill as a plague moved through the community. But on Log B’Omer, the plague stopped and the losses ceased.

I wish that this Log B’omer also signaled the instant end of the illness that has struck our community. And we too can not yet make clear plans for the future. But let this day of reprieve remind us that plagues end, wounds heal, seeds grow, and hope blossoms into joy. And that, dayenu, will surely be enough.

Don’t Stop Believing by Journey