Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim A Reason To Smile

Dear Friends,

A reason to smile….or maybe a few reasons to smile! We all can use moments of joy in our lives.

Looking ahead at this coming week, we have Lag B’Omer on Wednesday night and on Thursday! That’s one reason to smile!

What is Lag B’Omer?

We are about half way through the counting of the Omer – the counting of 50 days from Passover to Shavuot, and here we are almost at Lag B’Omer which is the 33rd day of the Omer. The Omer is the grain offering that was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times. Lag is a combination of two Hebrew letter: Lamed (which has a numerical equivalent of 30) and Gimmel (which has a numerical equivalent of 3). Lamed plus gimmel becomes Lag, and Lag represents the number 33!

Why is this a reason to smile? Because Lag B’Omer is a day of fun and games! It is the day associated with the lifting of a plague from the students of Rabbi Akiva.

Lag B’Omer is a day in which the somber feeling of the slow and deliberate counting of the Omer is lifted. Jewish weddings (which are mostly not performed during the 50 days of the counting of the Omer) often take place on Lag B’Omer. Outdoor sporting events take place on Lag B’Omer. Bonfires with roasted potatoes and onions represent the “scent” of Lag B’Omer. Well, maybe we should not do bonfires this year, but, we could get into the swing of Lag B’Omer even without bonfires…

Another reason to smile is the good news that we hear from so many of our congregants. Slowly, but surely, more and more of us are vaccinated. This means that we are moving toward a modicum of relief from the pandemic we have been experiencing. We are moving toward greater participation in person (with limitations), and to a greater sense of ease in our lives. Some of the hugs we have been missing are back!

And, we are reading a double Torah portion of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim that lays out for us Torah’s plan for recovery after a tragedy. Aaron, and the people, were devastated after the sudden loss of Nadav and Avihu, two of Aarons sons. Yet, our Torah reading reminds of the way forward – the path to holiness – which includes the melding of ritual and ethics, of human caring and connection and of divine caring and connection. That is yet another reason to smile! Our Torah shows us a path to greater good, to greater love, to greater healing and to greater joy. Our Torah shows us a path to greater inclusion, to greater justice and to a renewed sense of purpose!

We are right in the middle, at the half way mark, of the counting of the Omer. We are also reading the middle, the half way mark, of the Torah this week. And, in the middle of our Torah reading for this week (Leviticus 19:18), we read: “V’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha” [Love your fellow as yourself]. And, since we are mentioning numerical equivalents in Jewish tradition, you may notice that this is in Verse 18 which represents the combination of the two Hebrew letters of Yod (the numerical equivalent of 10) and Chet (the numerical equivalent of 8). Added together: 18, or as we know it: “Chai” – To Life! V’Ahavta l’reyacha kamocha, and all of Torah, represents our striving to have more reasons to smile even as we strive to enable others around us to have more reasons to smile. What more beautiful instruction could we hope for as a central focal point of the entire Torah, as we move toward and strive to generate and to amass many more reasons to smile in our world!

So…here’s to smiles and to life!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror