This coming Sunday is Susan and my wedding anniversary. Whenever I say her name an irrepressible surge of ecstatic appreciation wells up in my heart. My gratitude for the love she lavishes upon me and for the delirious joy I feel in her company is exceeded by the adoring amazement I feel about her agreeing to marry me in the first place.
We married on May 15th. In that year it corresponded to the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar.
The 18th of Iyar is a special day—Lag B’Omer. The Hebrew acronym ‘LaG’ is made up of two Hebrew letters Lamed and Gimel, numerically 30 and 3 respectively. Lag B’Omer simply means the thirty-third day of the Omer.
We count the forty-nine days of the Omer from the second day of Passover, until we reach Shavuot—Pentecost— the fiftieth day. (Leviticus 23:15-16). This counting process retraces Israel’s spiritual journey from the Exodus to Mt. Sinai.
Just like twelve step programs for self-improvement such as Alcoholics Anonymous, this is a forty-nine step self-improvement program from slavery’s dark dependence to the dazzling incandescence of the Ten Commandments which God presented to Israel on Pentecost.
The harsh regime in Egypt shattered relationships. The stressful conditions damaged marriages and friendships. Over the seven week period culminating at Mt. Sinai, a healing process took place. Unfortunately, today we no longer retain the progress made in that year of the Exodus. This requires us to repeat the self-improvement process every year. The counting of the Omer is a time of cosmic sensitivity to how we relate to each other and our continual need for repair saddens us.
Omer counting is strongly associated with Rabbi Akiva, the great sage executed by the Romans for teaching Torah. He emphasized the Torah’s cardinal rule:
…Love your friend as yourself…
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that over the years, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died during these sad days of counting the Omer. Rabbi Akiva’s brilliant students are charged with being negligent about loving and respecting each other. They failed to live by the credo of their teacher.
The deaths always ceased on the 33rd day of the Omer, the 18th of Iyar. Not coincidentally, the 33rd word of the Torah is the Hebrew word TOV or ‘good’.
And God saw that the light was good…
That word TOV comprises the three Hebrew letters ‘tet’, ‘vav’, and ‘vet’ with the respective numerical values 9, 6, 2. This totals 17, or exactly the number of days from Lag Ba’Omer to the holyday of Shavuot (33+17=50). In Biblical nomenclature, the number 33 is always associated with good.
The first Biblical mention of something being ‘not good’ concerns a lack of relationships:
…It is not good for man to be alone…
This time from the Exodus to Lag B’Omer sadly recalls our failure to love and appreciate others. Thus it is obviously incompatible with marriage, so weddings do not take place during this period.
The first day upon which marriages are permitted is the 33rd day of counting, Lag B’Omer. This day has become one of the most popular dates for Jewish weddings in all the year.
It’s easy to assume that in the period leading to receiving the Torah on Mt Sinai, we should be focused only on our relationship with God. But we’d be wrong. Counting the Omer teaches us that we cannot have a relationship with God while ignoring or devaluing our relationships with other people.
Feeling and showing love for others is the very fuel of friendship. Showing love nourishes relationships. Whether in business, parenting, or education, if people don’t know that you care they won’t care what you know.
My thanks to so many of you for showing your love by using the ‘forward to a friend’ button to share my Torah teachings. In honor of our anniversary Susan and I are offering an 18% discount (online only) on two fabulous resources; the book, I Only Want to Get Married Once: Dating Secrets for Getting it Right the First Time and our audio CD set, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden. Help yourself – or someone you love – work on life’s most important relationship.