02 April 2010

Omer 3: Perspective

Omer Day Three

Did Pharaoh drown in the Red Sea the other night? We sang of it twice; we counted out those plagues; and yet, he and his madness persists. His pyramids pop up in all sorts of places, even at one of my favorite places of refuge, Storm King, where the family took our annual Pesach walk yesterday.

We went to see Maya Lin's Wavefield, particularly poignant in the transitions of spring before it reaches its full growth later in the summer; and since we didn't make it to Storm King last summer to see it, we wanted to get up there yesterday. Yesterday it was particularly rich in the "idea" of the installation. Several areas were blocked off for seasonal seeding and it had the effect of having just opened. Areas of brown, yellow and green converged in their colors to make it appear as if one was standing above a mountain range, spreading out north and west before one's eyes.

I found myself contemplating this perspective the rest of the day, which made standing under Mark di Suvero's "Pyramidian" that much more challenging (and hilarious.)

During the Omer, we really are not yet free but rather, are in transition between slavery and freedom. One of the Sages great truths is that we cannot be fully free without the Law, which makes our stopover at Sinai totally and utterly elemental to the project of redemption. We liberal Jews often speak of having gone from slavery to freedom and if there is a transition, it's the 40 years we spent wandering in the desert before we reach the Promised Land.

But Sinai is essential to that narrative. Sinai gives structure to the ongoing enterprise of maintaining one's freedom--with morality, with ethical mandates, with a relationship to a Being beyond the self. Sinai gives us the Law, without which we would return to the Chaos of pre-Creation.

And so we count out the days--one through 50--in an exercise of introspection which asks of us to accept the challenging notion that passing through the parted waters of the Red Sea is only one step on the journey to true freedom.

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