The Discipline of After-Pesach

When I was a kid, I never quite made it through Pesach without eating something chometz-dik. A cookie, a soda with corn syrup in it (though see here for an Israeli Conservative Movement ruling not only permitting but recommending kitniyot, foods which have become forbidden over the centuries but aren’t part of the original 5 grains forbidden on Pesach. I want to follow this ruling but I feel like I need some formal way to say, “This is what I will be doing from now on.” Probably because Pesach is all about not being lax and this feels like laxity. Well, see below, that’s what this post is all about. Rabbi Richard Israel, z”l, ruminates here on many of the same kinds of things that I’m thinking about).

And as an adult, I’ve never quite made it through counting the Omer. I always forget, somewhere along the way, and interrupt the count. Discipline is hard for me.

Counting the Omer takes us from Pesach to Shavu’ot. Starting the second night of Pesach, we count each new day, until we have reached 7 x 7 = 49 days, and then the next day is Shavu’ot. On Shavu’ot we remember and re-live accepting the 10 Commandments; symbolically, we say “Yes” to the Torah, to the whole amazing package which is Judaism.

Counting the Omer completes the last clause of the famous phrase, “Let My people go! … so that they can serve Me.” Our freedom isn’t freedom to wander endlessly in the desert; nor is it freedom to do whatever we want, regardless. While Pesach celebrates the escape from slavery to freedom, the 49-day trek to Mt. Sinai, from Pesach to Shavu’ot, celebrates the movement from freedom to responsibility.

Pesach is a holiday of eating discipline. We get to the end of Pesach and are free to indulge again… but we’re not free to indulge in complete hedonism. Pesach ends, but Mt. Sinai awaits, and there we accept the responsibility to use our freedom within appropriate limits.

So how apropos is it that, in the kabbalistic manner of counting the Omer, we leave Pesach and immediately enter the week of Gevurah, translated as “discipline”? See here. I’m looking forward to learning more about how to use this 7-week period as one of instrospection and self-learning, and this website‘s been recommended to me. See also this take on, linking each daily set of kabbalistic attributes with a woman.  Happy counting!