Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Counting the Omer

I have to admit, I knew nothing about counting the omer until I did some reading about it. The more I read, the more things made sense. Passover is about the Exodus from Egypt. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah to the people. The omer is what bridges these two special events together. At its most basic, the Omer is a unit of measure- like an inch or a kilogram. During the 50 days of the omer, one does not marry, have parties or such. Even haircuts are forbidden. There is an exception to those rules... but we will talk about that when the time comes.

Traditionally, the counting occurs with the reciting of a blessing. For more information about this 50 day period, take a look here.

I have been amazed at how artists take religious moments and turn them around into artistic adventures. For example, here is this quilted Omer calendar from the artist Elizheva Hurvich.

This Omer Calendar was created in the Jewish year 5760 (2000) during the seven week counting period between Passover and Shavuot. On one side, seven rows of seven patchwork squares represent the 49 days which bridge the two holidays. Each square can serve as a visual meditation for the day. On the other side, embroidered in Hebrew, is the blessing one recites every night to fulfill the commandment of counting for these seven weeks (Leviticus 23;15 - 16, which reads:"You are to count from the day after the day of rest [Pesach] from the day you brought the Omer-waving offering until you've counted seven complete weeks. On the day after the seventh week, you will count 50 days...")
Also embroidered on the backside is a another text which can be used as a meditation before the counting. It can be translated:

May there be sweetness, Adonoy Our G-d, for us and may the works of our hands be substantial for us, may G-d establish the works of our hands.

This piece is made out of patchwork fabric. It can be read from the left to right, or reverse. It's way of "telling" time is not a tradition, linear, numerical reading. Like the traidition of "women's" arts, which speak in the tastes of food, in cookbooks, quilts, children's clothes and costumes, in a day to day life, this piece is soft, with undertain "boundaries," as the embroideries move from square to square, without much regard for the grid format.

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