The Jewish tradition of “counting up,” as demonstrated with the celebration of each year added to the history of Israel as a state, as well as through our observance of enumerating the days of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot, offer us a chance to be positive and optimistic. We can always find ways of seeing the glass half-full rather than half-empty, and of taking difficult situations and finding light even in the middle of supposed darkness.
The Torah reading for this week speaks of counting not only days, but years, first in sets of seven (for a “sabbatical year” for the land), and, cumulatively, in a set of seven-times-seven, where the 50th year is called a YOVEIL, usually translated as “jubilee.” In that year, at least in theory, land would return to previous owners, debts would be forgiven, slaves would go free. The sounding of the shofar would proclaim a DROR (a release, but often translated as “liberty”) that would commemorate this “grand equalization.” The jubilee was an admission and affirmation of our stewardship of the earth rather than ownership, where we are God’s representatives on earth, bound to treat the land – and other people – with care.
The jubilee experience must have been humbling, but it also has great meaning. Its message of equality at the end of a series of years of “counting up” could be a source of positive thinking about how we can affect the world. Thinking positive about the world and community is not always easy, but it is possible. One classroom exercise meant to teach that approach has the teacher create a sheet of paper for each student with his or her name on top. The papers are passed around the classroom with the instruction the students write on the paper a positive comment about that classmate. When asked to do so, we are able to “count up” and find the good in each other.
In that spirit, I would like to ask you to imagine that you have been given piece of paper that says “Temple Israel Dover” on top. I would like to ask you to write one positive comment about Temple Israel Dover in an email and send it to me. I will include your comments in my message at the annual meeting on May 22.
As we continue through the counting of the Omer, and moving to the future in general, may the increasing sunshine around us offer us a sense of optimism for the days to come.