On Not Counting the Omer

omer symbol

I keep forgetting about Shavuot. I haven’t been counting the Omer, although in the past, I’ve made a case for non-Jewish Christians doing so.

My lack of “observance” isn’t Messianic Judaism’s fault, it’s mine.

Some time ago, someone in the MJ movement reached out to me privately asking for my participation in something. I asked a few follow-up questions, but as time passed, I never responded.

This pretty much says that if I feel any form of disconnection with my chosen religious framework, it’s because of me.

I suppose I could say “once burned, twice shy,” but that’s not true either. I’m an adult, so I don’t have to let a few bad experiences color my judgment. I’ve had a lot of other good experiences.

Truth be told, I don’t live the sort of life that lends itself to “Messianic community.”

Well, that’s only sort of true. The real truth is that I’ve reached an equilibrium point; a place of balance.

Even more to the point, I wonder how much I have left to say on the topic?

Once upon a time, I believe some people considered me to be the “Messianic Gentile” who asked the questions most other MGs were only thinking. However, maybe there are just so many of those questions lying around, and now all that’s left is to rehash and rehash the same themes, just like how Hollywood keeps remaking the same old tired TV shows and movies.

I know there is a Messianic future where all disciples of Rav Yeshua will be engaged and we will have a direction in which to follow. Then, like now, we will have a choice to make as to how involved we want to be.

Most people, without a lot of discipline and motivation, tend to settle for “lukewarm.” The Bible doesn’t say very good things about being lukewarm.

I can read the Bible and study various tomes, but that doesn’t make me an expert on anything except being me. I have no astute or elegantly intelligent opinions to offer. I occasionally find the insights of certain scholars to be enlightening, but you can read them for yourselves. You don’t need me.

Blogging, and especially religious blogging, is about community. If no one reads your stuff, you are alone. People have read my stuff here, which has been pretty terrific for the most part. However, in my opinion, the most interesting articles I’ve authored have been about community (or the lack thereof), because in the end, we may need God the most, but we need each other, too. That’s why worship is corporate and not just one guy or one gal sitting alone in a room with a Bible.

I’ve noticed a severe drop off in participation from both supporters and detractors over the long months. Part of that is because I had to restrict some people from making comments due to the level of hostility that was being expressed.

However, I think also it may be because a lot of others like me are reaching the same “tipping point” relative to their involvement in “the movement.” After crossing a particular threshold, there’s just nowhere else to go, especially if you are “unevenly yoked” like I am.

It’s sometimes said that “love is a verb.” You don’t really love unless you act upon it and “do unto others.” Faith is a verb, too. It’s not something you sit around cherishing in the abstract. If you want to have a relationship with God, you have to “do” the relationship. Otherwise it dies, or worse, it continues to exist, but gets stale, like that carton of milk in the back of your fridge you’ve been ignoring.

In the end, whether it’s you or me or somebody else, if you want to be more than lukewarm, you either have to turn the heat up or off.

I suppose that’s why a lot of we MGs have historically been upset that we don’t have a ritual system as do observant Jews. Ritual and tradition are things that we do, not just contemplate.

Unlike observant Jews, Gentiles have to get up off of their rear ends and “do” something. We have no ritual unless it’s a personal one, which is fine and dandy.

When I want to stop being lukewarm, I may not end up counting the Omer or building my small, family sukkah, but I will have to do something. The same goes for the rest of humanity. God did what He was and is going to do. The rest is up to us, at least until Messiah returns.

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14 thoughts on “On Not Counting the Omer”

  1. Counting the Omer is, as most things Jewish, a family affair. Being Messianic, but being without family sort of stops much observance, except for the simplest observance of the Shabbatot and the Moedim and the Shema. There is no community to even help you keep track of what is when. And yet, it is written in Isaiah that we of the Nations are to cling to the covenant, which although not named is the Mosaic Covenant…the same one that will be written one day on our hearts. I wish I knew what that clinging meant, so i could know if I were holding on tightly enough.

    I have never counted the Omer, but Shavuot, on the other hand, is a Shabbat, so I keep it.

    In ages past, who were the ones actually doing the counting? The Priests or a local Rabbi? How was it done…was there ceremonial parade around the Synagogue shouting out the counting down? Song and dance, or just crossing off the day on a makeshift calendar?

    And what is done now, in any Jewish household?

    I fear that our lack of knowledge of the simplest details of the Mosaic Covenant gets in our way.

  2. It occurs to me that I’ve not read any comment from you about Rabbi Stuart Dauerman’s “Interfaithfulness” blog or org. Its purpose seems to be an outreach to intermarried couples and families. It might not be of any help to you, since you are familiar already with the relevant issues. But who can say?

  3. I like what you say: “Faith is a verb”. Faith needs to be lived, and experienced, and shared. Sometimes, it’s not in the huge “world” catching ways, but in the small whispers that faith is most seen, felt, and heard. Faith is a living creature in and of itself. It’s also a bit like a radio wavelength that broadens and shortens over the span of time, but is always there… like the radio hum of the universe. Sometimes we need to live with the hum for a little while before we figure out which wavelength is going to get the best propagation… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. 🙂 In the end, though I’ve snitted a few times, I have enjoyed the conversation immensely… often forcing me to take a serious look at my own faith, it’s formation, and how it lives day to day. 🙂

  4. @Q: I know we have somewhat different perspectives on how (or if) any portion of the Mosaic covenant can be applied to the Gentile disciple of Yeshua, and I am aware that that are specific applications of Shavuoat to us if we factor in the Acts 2 event, but at this point, there is no single authority that’s available to clarify these matters, so “your mileage may vary,” seems to be the course of action to take.

    @PL: I see more of Rabbi Dauermann’s “Interfaithfulness” on Facebook than in my blog notifications (yes, I follow him), but as you have suggested, “it takes two to tango,” and with “the missus” not being particularly observant, but at the same time being pretty sensitive to my being a “Christian,” it’s a tender subject to broach. I don’t know if there is a viable solution this side of the Messiah besides me keeping my own council. Fortunately, she has zero interests in my blogging.

    @Jelli: Thanks for that. Historically, one of the things people have liked about this blog is that the questions I ask do result in some folks taking a good look at their own faith and religious expression.

  5. Hi James,
    Lately, when reading your posts, I keep going back to the Episcopal church’s Book of Common Prayer. I believe it’s God’s nudge to get me back on an organized spiritual path.
    Since October, when I started working 3 jobs (1 fulltime + and 2 part time), I’ve done nothing but eat, nap, and work. I praise God for the work and income, yet miss community – whether online or in person. Above all, I miss my Abba and our time together.
    Shabbat is spent resting – mostly just sitting on the couch trying to recover. My prayer had been a plea for sanity and organization, and in the odd moments that I am able to catch a glimpse of your post, I am always reminded of the BCP.
    So I wanted to thank you for posting, and being used by God to provide the answer I need. While the BCP is not perfect for those of us Hebraically aware, it is a good starting place for morning, afternoon, and evening prayer as well as compline.

  6. Wow. You’re working a lot.

    Yes, ultimately for we “Messianically-aware Gentiles,” we have to often construct our own praxis since it is not as clearly defined as traditional Jewish praxis. For some, this is a crisis but for others, an opportunity. Somewhere in the middle is where we meet God.

  7. I stopped counting the Omer too mainly because I wasn’t feeling accepted in MJ.

    I went back to two MJ congregations after someone’s hard prayers and neither of them worked out and he didn’t even talk to me at the one he invited me to, didn’t even say “hi”. So I guess you aren’t accepted unless you are totally “in”. So I was told I can come back to another congregation that meets on Sabbath if I found those didn’t work so maybe that is really my family. They count the Omer there so maybe I can get back to it there.

    You are probably smart to be staying away right now.

  8. This morning I woke thinking about the 24 elders in Revelation. There are several theories on who they represent, but it kicked off a chain of thoughts that led to the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles. Yeshua did give them authority while not removing the authority of the Sanhedrin. He obviously knew the coming schism between His people and the Gentiles, so I wonder if what eventually came to us in the form of Catholicism (without the corruption and anti-Semitism) is the way He called us to worship?

    I cannot stress enough – “without the the corruption and anti-Semitism”.

    It’s been years since I read or owned a Catholic missal, and before joining the Episcopal church, I studied the differences and similarities between Catholicism and Anglicanism. For me, Anglicanism more biblically based – at least before 1988 when I joined.

    When I compare the Siddur to the 1977 Book of Common Prayer, I can’t help but see all the similarities and wonder if this truly is what us Gentiles were given to worship the Creator of the Universe alongside Israel, especially since both Catholics and Anglicans can trace their roots to the very Jewish Apostles.

  9. @JHarris: I believe (but I could be wrong) that the prayers for counting the Omer are supposed to be recited corporately, but I see no reason for you not to be able to say them privately if that’s your desire. Of you feel driven to a certain level of observance, MJ congregations acceptance or rejection of you doesn’t have to mean you can’t still draw close to God by whatever means you desire.

    As far as my staying away from MJ congregations, the reasons are many and complicated, and I can’t lay all of that at the feet of such groups and individuals. In the end, our relationship with God is our responsibility, not anyone else’s.

    @Ro Pinto: I know some people are going to push back against what I’m about to write, but for we Gentiles, there may be more than one correct method of praxis. In the absence of a definitive guide, what choice do we have. We can either accept the worship standards of a local congregation, or create a personal praxis.

    We “Messianic Gentiles” (and probably more than a few Messianic Jews) can be a disenfranchised lot. I know that FFOZ is currently hosting their annual Shavuot Conference, and no doubt I know more than a few people who are attending this year. For some, that is their “spiritual home” as a Gentile who is “Hebraically aware,” but it’s not for everyone.

    As I said to JHarris above, no one group, congregation, or organization can define us all. Messianic Jews who choose to accept upon themselves an Orthodox Jewish praxis have a highly specific guide, but the rest of us do not. Yet, I believe God accepts us as well. Otherwise, why did Rav Yeshua commission Rav Shaul as the emissary to the Gentiles?

  10. @James: The leader at the congregation I attend the most has counted the Omer during Shabbat but I don’t think the congregation recited it too (or else I missed the opportunity to do so) so I am not sure if it qualifies as me counting the Omer with them, probably not. At least I heard it being counted at a congregation this year.

    Praying for you and your wife that you will come together spiritually somehow. If you don’t want prayers just let me know. I have had so many prayers prayed on me that I didn’t know what to do with (but I felt I spent a lot of time trying) I sometimes wonder when it’s okay for me to pray for people too, and how often I should.

  11. Peace be to all and a good health.
    Hello guys, we would like to remind everybody that we are only giving an information to the truth of the New Covenant Plan of God, especially to this Parousia Period but we think and still observed that this Plan of God is still unknown to the many world major religion and even today’s covenantal leftseeds. That this Plan of God is the same New Testament Gospel of Yeshua M. which is the only way, the truth and the life for one’s salvation and no to other else (but this was first applied to the covenantal Israelites, making Yeshua M. to established this Lone Religion of God on earth, Exclusively Covenanted to the covenantal Israelites unto the End Times, 1Tes. 4:16-17..). So the gentiles or converted gentiles have no connection or relation to all sacrificial offering rituals. That reveals to the truth that all religions was false! And we are all now in this Parousia Period or 2nd Advent of Christ ever since last 1994. And Yeshua M. will only meet those that were already a holy one, Heb. 9:28, and 2Pet. 3:13-14..

    But the problem, we could still observed in this blog the eagerness of some in insisting their observance to sacrificial offering ritual that could merited them of cleaning their sins with a support quotation from Old Covenant and even to New Covenant but in their misunderstanding interpretation only. When the truth of this knowledge, these sacrificial offering ritual were already been changed in their format of observances ever since the time of Yeshua M. Covenant, when he told in Mt. 12:1-8, that God only want in this place or period is Mercy and not of sacrificial offering. And to A. Paul version in Heb. 10:1-39 that almost all the sacrificial offering rituals were non sense to God, verse 26.. To the fact, that God only want Mercy and not off any sacrificial offering which could not clean one’s sin but in Christ Blood it could cleans our sins. And on verse 38, there is a fore warn to those that will “drawback,” they will be accurse for their perdition! So why can not anyone still understand how to update their faith believe from Old to New Covenant Plan of God? And God will not waste his time to prepare this Plan which is for our own sake that can really guide us to our own salvation and to escape from the punishment of eternal fire.
    May our living lord God Bless us all.

    LOVE : New Jerusalem – Holy Spirit

  12. Shauvuot…such a simple meeting with G-d…keep the Shabbat by resting, read the ten commandments, have some cheesecake…odd, I see no sacrifice there, only enjoyment of the day, the gift of Torah and the Ruach ha Kodesh, and eating cheesecake…unless you don’t like cheesecake, in which case I am sure Ice Cream would do as well.

  13. I don’t believe there’s a direct commandment for non-Jews to count the Omer, though I don’t see a reason why it should be forbidden, since Shavuot commemorates both the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit as we see in Acts 2.

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