During this unprecedented era, many of us find ourselves restricted to our homes, alone or with loved ones, for an indefinite period of time. We feel scared and anxious, stressed, frustrated and even bored. Although these days, weeks and possibly months ahead may seem bleak, the opportunities for gratitude, blessings and joy persist.
As two rabbis with three sweet, curious children, we constantly strive to find ways to infuse meaning into both the ordinary and extraordinary, as well as bring comfort and peace to worried young minds and hearts. When the governor of Ohio recently announced a three-week long shut down of all K–12 schools (which we support whole-heartedly), it quickly dawned on us that those three weeks would lead directly into Passover—turning a three-week long hiatus from in-person school, to at least five. Not to mention, having our delightful trio home for Passover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc). preparations (at least we’ll have extra hands to carry dishes and pots up from the basement!). Thinking ahead to Passover reminded us of the upcoming counting of the From the second day of Passover until Shavuot, Jews count seven weeks – seven times seven days – to commemorate the period between the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation at Sinai. When the Temple stood, a certain measure (omer) of barley was offered on the altar each day; today, we merely count out the days., the day-by-day numbering of the seven-week period leading from the redemption from slavery, commemorated on Passover up to Shavuot’s celebration of the receiving of the The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general..
Just as we purposely count up those 49 days every year, so too we offer this way of counting up toward the ultimate in-person, regathering of our many communities. Since this Monday, March 16, is our children’s first official day without in-person learning, we will be commencing our family’s count-up that evening around bedtime:
ספירת ההסגר – Counting of the Quarantine
In an effort to focus on the things that make our days meaningful—the moments that make our days COUNT, we choose to end our day by counting the quarantine. Gather your loved ones, either in person or virtually. Take a few deep breaths. Have each person share at least one instance of gratitude today. While filled with thoughts of appreciation, recite the following together:
הנני מוכן ומזומן לקיים מצות עשה של פיקוח נפש כמו שכתוב בתורה ״ובחרת בחיים.״
Hineni mukhan umzuman l’kayeim mitzvat aseih shel pikuakh nefesh, k’mo shekatuv baTorah: “uvakharta bakhayyim.”
Here I am, actively ready to fulfill the Lit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed." of saving lives, as the Torah teaches, “and you shall choose life.”
ברוך אתה ה״ אלהינו מלך העולם העונה בעת צרה.
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, ha-oneh b’eit tzarah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, The One who answers us in our times of crisis.
היום יום אחד להסגר.
Hayom yom ekhad lahesger.
Today is the first day of the quarantine.
After the blessing has been recited and the day counted, choose a physical reminder of the completed day, such as:
- A sticker on a calendar
- Marbles in a jar
- Coins in a Charity. In Hebrew, the word tzedakah derives from the word for justice. Tzedakah is not seen as emanating from the kindness of one’s heart but, rather, as a communal obligation. box (see-through preferred)
- Jumping jacks corresponding to the days
- Find something in your house that you have the same number of
Although none of us yet knows when this time of quarantine will end, we hope and pray that it will be soon, that God will hear our prayers for healing, and will bring us and our children back to a time where can all be normally social, instead of socially distant.
The intention is to count in a similar way that we will be counting the Omer. First we count the days, then the weeks, noting that each is important and matters equally. Below are some more examples of how to count the days and weeks—each person should feel free to choose whether to count in Hebrew, English or both.
היום שני ימים להסגר
Hayom sh’nei yamim lahesger.
Today is the second day of the quarantine.
היום שבעה ימים, שהם שבוע אחד להסגר
Hayom shiv’ah yamim, sheheim shavuah echad lahesger.
Today is the seventh day, which is one week of the quarantine.
היום שבעה-עשר יום, שהם שני שבועות ושלושה ימים להסגר.
Hayom shiv’ah asar yom, sheheim sh’nei shavu’ot u’shloshah yamim lahesger.
Today is the seventeenth day, which is two weeks and three days of the quarantine.