Journeys in Time
by Rabbi David Kasher
In this period between Passover and Shavuot, we are engaged in the yearly ritual of “Counting the Omer.” Once upon a time, this counting served as a way of keeping track of the time between two Temple sacrifices; today, all that remains of the practice is the verbal counting itself: every night, for forty-nine nights, we stand up and announce where we are in the Omer progression of days and weeks.
The experience of intentional counting contains, within it, a certain kind of psychic contradiction. On the one hand, counting directs our attention forward, toward a particular destination. The Omer is 49 days, so every time we take account of where we are in the journey, we remember that we are moving closer and closer to that final day.
But on the other hand, the act of articulating the number assigned to a particular day roots us very starkly in the present moment. By declaring our exact position in the passing of time, we must become profoundly aware of existing in this very day and no other. It is an opportunity to experience a heightened awareness of Now.
This very tension, between journey and presence, exists also in the structure of a Kevah Group. On the one hand, the series of regular meetings forms a progressive journey throughout the year, with each session building on the last, and the sense of community deepening with every new encounter. Greater knowledge is the destination towards which all are headed together.
But on the other hand, the most profound moments in Kevah learning often have nothing to do with where the group is headed and what information is being acquired. In such moments, the joy of learning, itself, is the only point of the experience. By setting aside this time to meet with friends and explore ideas, we create a space to be fully in the present encounter.
As we count towards Shavuot, the holiday of receiving Torah, consider marking your way through time this year with a Kevah Group. The richness of Jewish learning will certainly take your mind to new places. But in certain profound moments, it will also be clear that the journey itself is the destination.
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