Sunday, April 22, 2012

Counting the Omer 2012

Counting the Omer
Each year we find ourselves re-visiting the issue of counting the omer.  As I've related in past posts in this blog, our method of counting is a bit different.  Not only is our understanding of when to count the omer based on our understanding of when the Scriptures say to begin and the keeping of the lunar Shabbat, but our method of counting may be rather unique.  

While the end goal of the time of the counting of the omer is the Feast of Shavuot, we've yet to see a year when any of the groups that do the counting have somehow come into sync.  This is always a bit troublesome to our thinking as we relate it to the gathering of believers in the upper room and the outpouring of the Ruach Ha'Chodesh upon the talmidin or disciples.  The Scriptures says of the talmidin "that they were all of one accord", or one mind.  Whereas, believers today find little to agree on it seems.  

Lest, someone should think that such discrepancies are the invention of modern Messianics, rabbinical Jews, or any other believers that chose to follow and live by Torah, check out the history of this Biblical command and you will find that even in the lifetime of our Messiah Yeshua, there was plenty of controversy ongoing over when to begin the count.  We've finally reached the point where we've simply determined to keep the commandment as best as we can and we just do it.

Back in 2009, when we first determined to count the omer, DannyLee and I decided that we would count dimes in a little glass dish as we had no idea what it meant in reality to "count omer".  To our amazement and ongoing amusement, during our first count, dimes would appear in DannyLee's path throughout the time of the counting.  As we added each one to our little dish, it was as if each dime had a story of it's finding, though those stories have blurred over the years.  

The appearance of dimes continued throughout 2010 and 2011 and we slowly became "used" to this annual event.  Each year as we prepare ourselves for Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the counting of the omer slowly rises to the surface of our consciousness and we wonder if there will be dimes once again to be found.  In some ways, this has become our own personal little miracle or something like a private joke between us and our LORD.  

This year has been no different though our mental states have been challenged by some long and difficult circumstances and our enthusiasm has been somewhat lagging.  As we faced the ongoing concern and re-visited our understanding of the Scriptures through our Torah studies, we found nothing new to cause us to reconsider what we have been doing all along.  DannyLee determined the date that we would begin and then it slipped from our minds.  

Last Monday, we were once again given a gentle reminder that it was our time to be counting the omer.  I'm not sure what the frequency of finding dimes  is versus that of finding pennies, nickels, or quarters.  I wouldn't be surprised by an internet search to see some kind of study done of the chances of this.  Simply put, in my daily experience, finding pennies is pretty much the norm and anything else is a small cause for excitement.  Not because I put any great value in money, but because long ago, the stories of "Pippi Longstocking" gave me a love for the art of "thing-finding".  (You'd have to be a fan of her books to know what I'm talking about here!)  I love finding "things" and that "love" extends to shells, interesting rocks and all the other stuff that falls from pockets or gets tossed about in the wind.  

Anyway, back to my point!  I was away for the day on Monday and came home about 4 in the afternoon.  As I walked from the truck to the door, I was focused on the quickly receding snow in our little "yard".  We have a small boardwalk that we salvaged from a construction site nearby that keeps us up out of the muddy sand and a small grassy area with a small fire pit and a picnic table.  All of this has been buried to the top of the picnic table and beyond for months in snow.  Now it is almost all but gone.

Just as I reached the door, I stopped dead in my tracks and just stared at the dime that lay there before me. Now it's a safe bet that that dime had fallen out of DannyLee's pocket as he pulled out his keys to come in after walking Ariela.  I'm not going to try to blow smoke or dress this up as some kind of "divine intervention".  What makes it more than that for us, however, is the timing and the fact that it was a dime.  I could tell you that it's rare for DannyLee to drop anything out of his pockets and even rarer for him to be carrying coins in them as we keep a jar for spare change readily at hand to prevent that, but I'm not in the business of trying to convince anyone of anything.  For us, it is what it is.........a reminder that it is the time of the counting of the omer ...............and so we count!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Pesach to Remember!

My first Pesach (Passover) celebration was in Jerusalem in 2006.  It was my first trip to the Land of Israel and the timing was not something that I was considering at all.  It all just worked out in ways that I couldn't even begin to ask for or imagine and I know WHO to thank for that.  The circumstances that led to me finding myself as a guest at the table of strangers could only have been orchestrated by the Hand of ONE much greater than I.  The memories of that night remain etched in my mind in great detail.  

In the following years, I have found myself slowly moving from being a participant to becoming the hostess.  This has changed my perspective and understanding of Pesach in ways that far exceeded the blessings of just being a participant.  The planning and thought and considerations that must be made from the viewpoint of hosting Pesach are enormous in comparison to just having to show up on time.  

Each year, we are deeply concerned with the timing of this event as it sets up the flow of the next four Biblical feasts.  Each year, we are bemused and confounded by the varying dates that are argued by all those that are out here trying to "get it right".  As always, we check and re-check our lunar websites and keep a watchful eye on the moon as it dutifully waxes into it's glorious fullness.  Cloudy skies add an edge of concern as we draw closer to this special night.  

This year, we once again found ourselves preparing for a quiet meal as there was no one around with an interest in joining with us.  No matter, as our current level of busy-ness didn't leave us with a lot of time to prepare much more than we'd already done.  We were able to get the "yeast" out of the house and that literally went down to the wire as DannyLee finished off the last of the loaf of bread for his afternoon meal.  

On Monday, we'd ordered a 5-pound leg of lamb from the local butcher and went with a bit of fear and trepidation to pick it up.  I still had no idea what this was going to look like as my internet searches on lamb recipes had showed a wide variety of cuts and presentations.  When we arrived at the store, we were presented with a string-wrapped portion similar to a large roast beef.  We both breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of it.  It not only would easily fit into our refrigerator, but it would fit into our tiny freezer.  

I asked the butcher if we would be able to slow roast this cut and he expressed his doubts that lamb would do well under such cooking methods.  Our grill is still buried in ice and snow and it's still cold enough to make cooking outside impractical so it was back to the internet for recipe ideas.  The Scriptures say that we're not to boil the lamb in water which is what I had resorted to last year after reading several recipes.  I did a quick search on "slow roasted lamb".

HOORAY!!  My search turned up a simple recipe for roasting a 5-pound leg of lamb (boneless roast) in the oven.  The temperature was set at 250 degrees and the meat actually cooked for 7 hours.  I used a large roasting/cooking bag meant for a turkey without any water.  I put a layer of dried rosemary, garlic chips and kosher salt over the top of the roast and then I sprayed it all down with garlic juice.  

My next search was for a simple Seder booklet.  I didn't want to use the same Seder that I had used last year.  There were too many things in that one that we found confusing or even frustrating to follow.  So I did a quick search on "simple Seder" and once again, my search was rewarded with a wonderful Seder booklet that I was able to print out and follow through the meal without confusion.  

Our one goal for this year's Pesach was to observe this as a "night watch" as our Messiah did during HIS time.  We didn't make the whole night as I was getting quite fuzzy by 3 a.m.  I'd been up and about 21 hours by that point and I admit that 24 hours without sleep just isn't as easy as it used to be.  By 3:30 a.m., we felt that we had made a brave effort to keep watch and it was now time for us to give it up and hit the hay.  

Our Pesach celebration was especially joyful for us this year as we truly felt that we had somehow arrived at a much fuller understanding of this special feast.  We've finally reached the point where we have a sense of peace with our efforts.  In the past, there have been so many times where we've felt overwhelmed with thoughts that we didn't "do it right" or we made too many concessions because of circumstances that we can't control.  This year, all of those things seemed to fall away and in the end, we are happy to say that we kept this very special "night watch".

P.S.  The lamb recipe turned out to be the best lamb that either of us had ever eaten!