Editor’s Note: This d’var torah was delivered at Darkhei Noam, a Manhattan congregation, on Saturday, April 20.
Today is the 25th day of the Omer [the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot]. One week from tomorrow, we will celebrate the 33rd day, Lag B'omer. Since Pesach, we've been in a period where we observe a set of customs related to mourning. Customs vary across communities, but usually rule out weddings, haircuts, live music, and sometimes new clothes. What exactly are we mourning? The Gemara in Yevamot 62b teaches:
“It was said that Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 chevrutot (24,000 students)… All of them died in a single spell.”
Last Friday after sunset, Jewish worshipers recited the traditional prayer over the counting of the Omer, the seven-week period between the second day of Passover and Shavuot. The count that night was 42. Or it could have been Jackie Robinson, Ronnie Lott or Connie Hawkins, depending on if you were a baseball, football or basketball fan.