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Ta Shema: May 20, 2022

This week, in the midst of the counting of the omer, we have two very minor holidays or spiritual pauses. Sunday May 15th was Pesach Sheni, Second Passover, and today, May 19th, is Lag BaOmer. 
Pesach Sheni, coming a month after Passover, was an opportunity in Biblical times for those who had been in a state of ritual impurity during Pesah to offer a delayed version of the paschal sacrifice. Today, the day is marked by recognizing the power of second chances. We do not always get the chance to start over again or make amends when something went wrong the first time. Pesach Sheni teaches to not take for granted the moment at hand, and most especially if you are given the chance to start again.  
And just a few days later falls Lag Ba-omer, “the thirty-third day of the omer”. 
Believed to be the day on which the plague that afflicted Rabbi Akiva’s students ceased, Lag BaOmer is a day of respite from the sadness of the omer. On this day, all traditional mourning rituals cease meaning weddings are permitted, and haircuts and shaving are allowed. 
Last week I spoke about the sadness in joy and the joy in sadness. These minor holidays are aligned with that theme. While the omer is generally a solemn time of contemplation, these two days ritually require us to pause and be grateful for the opportunity to reflect on gratitude and joy. This is joy in sadness. 
On the other hand, this week, on the eve of Pesach Sheni, we lost our friend, Beryl Jacobson, wife of Jay Jacobson. She was a woman of many tastes and talents, a sharp and witty humor, with a love of travel only rivaled by her love of family. She passed just a few weeks shy of her 70th wedding anniversary. This is sadness in joy. 
Yet, as I met with her family and prepared for her funeral, surrounded by her art she had collected over the years and tokens from her many travels with Jay, hearing her family share many humorous memories of her, joy in sadness appeared yet again. 
These times of complex grief harken to the verse in Isaiah 45:7: 
I form light and create darkness, 
I make peace and create woe— 
I God do all these things. 
I remind myself in these times that God is in all of these occurrences, the difficult times and the celebratory times. The omer teaches us that all times, no matter how they appear on the surface level, are tinged with both celebration and difficulty. 
Last week, my cousin’s wedding was colored with the difficulty of feeling full joy knowing the brides’s cousin had died tragically young and would be greatly missed from attendance. 
This week, we bury of our dear friend Beryl, knowing that she loved a deep love that people only dream of, and was about to celebrate 70 years of love with Jay. We will sit shiva with the family in her home where you will be able to see on every wall and shelf space a piece of her adventures.  
May Beryl’s memory eternally be for a blessing and may her family be granted strength, solace, and consolation. 
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Lag BaOmer, 
Rabbi Chaya Bender 

Mon, July 22 2024 16 Tammuz 5784