Omer Day Nine
"From when onwards are we to read the Shma in the evening? From the moment when the priests come home to eat of their priest's due up to the end of the first watch. This is the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, but the Sages say 'Until midnight.' Rabban Gamliel says 'Until dawn.'"
So opens the Mishnah Brachot, the first tractate of them all.
This morning, I counted the Ninth Day of the Omer just before the sun rose, awakened by birds, it not yet light outside, and a good hour before the alarm went off. I said to myself, "Oh! I forgot to count the Omer last night before I went to sleep!" and then remembered this Mishnah and said to myself, "Apply it, son."
So I did and counted day nine.
I learned this Mishnah from Rabbi Charles Feinberg, on a warm spring night in Madison, with a couple of other students inside his study at the Conservative synagogue on the West Side when I was a student there.
I gave thanks for that lesson, from 25 years ago, and for having learned to read Hebrew and explore Judaism as an adult. Rather than celebrate the legal "save" as the sun began to rise, I instead uttered a blessing for a literacy we all might one day enjoy, if only because the gift of reading makes life that much more compelling.