A lot takes place during the Counting of the Omer between Pesach and Shavuot: we count (or maybe loose count); we commemorate and celebrate Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Lag Baomer, Yom Yerushalim; we went from being slaves in Egypt to receiving the Torah at Sinai; and we started to notice the spring turn to summer.

Often we over look the agricultural meaning of the holidays because the historical-conceptual links have become so much more relevant to our urban and suburban lifestyle. But the sacrifices given on the two holidays can refocus our attention. On Pesach we offer the Korban Omer, raw sheaves of barely, which coincides with the beginning of the grain harvest. By offering this simplest form of grain we thank God for the basic nutrition that the land affords us. But on Shavuot we offer the “Shnei Halaechem” two robust challot. This is the only time we bring leavened bread into the Beit Hamikdash, as if we are thanking God for the sumptuous bread (coated in egg, with a lot of sugar, like Pear Challot…maybe?), and for the ability to transform raw materials into more complicated and delicious delectables.  

When we think about Shavuot as the holiday of receiving the Torah, we imagine ourselves as traveling Jews stopping momentarily in the desert. But when we think of bringing grain and bread to the Beit Hamikdash we are transported to an agrarian lifestyle in the land of Israel. After all, when we were traveling in the dessert it was relatively easy to give animal sacrifices, as the animals can wonder with travelers in the desert. But to give a barely and wheat sacrifice really represents an additional blessing of stability, land to farm and live on, hopefully a extra produce to sell at a profit.

We don’t all individually farm land these days (though I am very happy with my new CSA- Community Supported Agriculture- that delivers organic vegetables to my door, with the dirt still on them so I feel a little more connected to the land). But many of us do have a sense of stability and source of income, similar to owning a plot of land, something that especially in todays economic climate we should be thankful for on Shavuot.

P.S. The AJWS works teaches poor people all over the world to cultivate land, growing food for themselves and to sell. It’s a “grassroots” (excuse the pun) way to enable people to support themselves instead of putting a band aid on the issue of poverty and hunger. If you want you can donate in spiritual preparation for Shavuot.


I've been glad to see several articles recently published on Ynet (an Israeli internet news source) exposing the ills of the Rabbinic court here in Israel. The writer, Rivkah Lubitch, is a toenet (a lawyer in the Rabbinic court system) and works through Center for Women's Justice , who are strategically publishing articles weekly to raise awareness about women's rights in the backwards and corrupt world of religious courts. Kol Hacavod!

Recent invitation to rally for an aguna.
I recently came across an energetic invitation on-line to a rally against a man who is refusing to give his wife a get, a Jewish Divorce. The strategy of helping such women by complicating a man’s comfort in his community- taking away his right to be called up to the Torah or boycotting his business – is quite an old idea. Trying to convince but not force a husband to give his wife a get has been the preoccupation of Jewish leaders since the Talmud. Softer than the Rambam’s plan to beat offending men until they said “yes I want to give this get,” most Rabbis today sanction using community and consumer pressure as a way to right the wrong.

I was glad to come across the invitation for this specific rally and am always glad to hear of people who are dedicated enough to the cause to take to the streets and yell about it. However I still have to admit that these individual rallies fall short of my dreams of an ultimate end to the problem. By exerting so much energy on fighting each man on his turf, we simply continue the status quo, which places all the key to unlock marriage entirely in man’s hand, a basic power differential that will always lead to manipulations and abuses of the divorce process.

The invitation to this rally earnestly wanted to persuade people to participate and so it read: “Come out to protect your daughters!” Unfortunately this very well meant call to action reeks of paternalism. Do they only expect men to show up at the rally? Maybe, maybe not. But the underlying point is clear: women need men’s help. A grown woman, who may be a professional, a mother, and clearly a wife, is transformed back into a child, a daughter of the community. However successful this rally may be, the woman’s status in the community will always be in need of protection until the very structure of marriage is equalized.