Today is the 26th day of the Omer. It is at this time period, between Pesach and Shavuot, that we count and recognise each day, 49 days, the length of time that it took the Jewish people to go from Egypt to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. Since ancient times, each day during this time period, we count off and acknowledge.
And in more recent times there are a few specific days during the Omer that are of extra significance. These days we commonly refer to as “The Yoms”: Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. Each one significant for its own reason, each one allowing us to appreciate the time we live in and not take it for granted.
Stephen Covey, in his famous book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, writes about the need to make time for important things before they become urgent. In our busy lives of families, school, work, friends and endless responsibilities, it is easy to only deal with what is urgent. Appreciation is not urgent. Memory is not urgent. Celebrating our Jewish homeland is not urgent. But it is of vital importance. Our calendar demands us to make time for the important.
On Yom HaShoah we remember the six million Jewish people killed in the worst atrocity in Jewish History.
On Yom Hazikaron we honour and pay tribute to those who lost their lives so that we can have the State of Israel.
On Yom Ha’atzmaut we celebrate our Jewish state of Israel.
On Yom Yerushalayim we celebrate Jerusalem and our ability to live and pray in our ancient capital.
Maybe we would do those things anyway if these days were not mandated, but probably not.
In Israel, when the siren sounds on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron, it doesn’t matter how busy one is, everyone stops and takes a moment to remember, reflect and respect.
Last year, during these Yoms, I was lucky enough to be on the Israel Study Tour (IST) in Israel. There is no substitution for marking these days in our Jewish homeland. Being surrounded by Israelis who all understand the significance of these days and their importance. Stopping together, remembering together, celebrating together.
It is hard to capture that on the other side of the world, but at Moriah we bring these days to life. This year, Anzac Day and Yom HaZikaron fell on the same day, and in a deeply special ceremony, we reflected on what it means to be both a proud Australian and a proud Jew. On Yom Ha’atzmaut we felt close to Israel, even from such a distance, and we celebrated because we know that the State of Israel is also our home and our lives would not be the same without it.
The most famous “Yom” does not occur in the time period of the Omer and will take place in around five month’s time. Yom Kippur. Unlike the Yoms occurring now, Yom Kippur is making a time for self-reflection. Looking inward and asking ourselves how we can be better people. But we know that on Yom Kippur, although we focus inwards, we stand together collectively in shule. We need a community around us in order to observe the day properly.
On the Yoms we stand together. We are a nation that has been through tragedy and miracles. We never stop hoping and we never stop striving for better. We take time out of our lives to reset and remember what is truly important. And we do that together, as a school and as a community.
Even all the way in Sydney, Australia we feel united with Jewish people in Israel and around the world. We share a story, a history and a future.
As we continue to count each day, each Yom of the Omer we look to make each day count. To take the values of the Yoms and put them into every Yom.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Talya Wiseman is the Head of Jewish Life, High School, at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.