Why can't Phil shave?
Well, of course, I CAN shave, but I'm not really supposed to.
Why is Phil's facial fuzz so flamboyant? Not for some cheap alliterative ploy, I assure you.
No, gentle readers, Judaism for G+ News Brief is about Sefiras HaOmer!
Usual disclaimers apply. The information here is presented by a layman and for educational purposes only. No proselytization is implied, and none should be inferred. I share these tidbits and bon mots strictly to dispel ignorance and bring forth a subject I am very fond of.
What, you may ask, is Sefiras HaOmer ? It translates to "Counting the Omer" and refers to the practice that we Jews go through during the period between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuos (The Feast of Weeks). The latter holiday is 50 days after Pesach, and tradition tells us it was on this day we were given the Torah at Mount Sinai.
In the Torah, right after the part about Pesach, we are told to bring the korben omer - the special sacrifice of barley, signifying the beginning of the harvest season. We are also then commanded to count seven weeks (a week of weeks - thus, Shavuos, Hebrew for "Weeks"). We celebrate Shavuos for two days (outside of Israel - a distinction for another time).
As I said, it is during this time in the desert, having just left 210 years of slavery in Egypt, that the Jews climbed out of the levels of impurity they had fallen into. They worked on a different midah - character trait - every day of that seven weeks. They needed to fortify themselves spiritually to be ready to receive the Torah.
It is this that we commemorate with Sefiras HaOmer. Each day, there is a different character trait we are supposed to be thinking about, reading and learning about, and generally working on. But that isn't why we don't shave.
While this time period has traditionally been one of spiritual growth, there was a period when it was also a time of great tragedy.
Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest Sages of the Talmud, had accumulated 24,000 students. During this period of Sefiras HaOmer, some 2000 years ago, a plague struck down all of his students. All 24,000 died - until the 33rd day of the Omer. On that day, the plague lifted. In memory of the 24,000 students who died at this time of year, we practice a level of mourning.
We are forbidden, for example, from having weddings or listening to music during the first 33 days. We also are not supposed to shave or take haircuts. That's why I'm not shaving.
Now, there are leniencies - if one needs to shave for one's job, for example, one is permitted to shave. That's pretty common these days. I have the privilege, for the first time in my career and being observant, to work for a company that doesn't care about my facial foliage. So I'm going to try and go the whole 33 days without shaving.
That'll be interesting - this is only the twelfth day.
I'll share more pictures later on.
May we all experience growth and improvement in ourselves, on a continual basis!