Blog Ba’Omer – Part 3

In part one and part two I dwelled on the significance of Numbers.  The etymology of Numbers in Hebrew stems from the common root or shoresh of “חָשַׁב” which is the origin of thinking as well as accounting or “חשבון”.  We can therefore conceptualize the merging of thinking and numbering as indicative of the extent of its importance, giving us the Hebrew word “חשיבות”.  Furthermore, the essential linkage between words and numbers gives us the common origin of root as reflected in the shoresh of words and the square root of numbers.

There is a similarly nuanced theme in the root of “ספר” which means book, as in ספר במדבר, known as the Book of Numbers, whose debut last week was discussed in part two.   That is the origin as well of the word “ספירה”, or the counting that links the seven weeks between the festivals of פסח and שבועות.  Which brings us to a story or “סיפור” of a different kind, and that is the reading of  מגילת רות.


There are many explanations given as to why we read מגילת רות on שבועות.  But I daresay that this year, in which the pandemic has forced shul-goers into holidays of relative solitude at home, affords more people than ever the opportunity to reflect on מגילת רות in some detail.  In that spirit, I’d like to highlight two contiguous phrases in Chapter three.  The first is:  וַתִּשְׁכַּ֤ב מַרְגְּלוֹתָו֙ עַד־הַבֹּ֔קֶר וַתָּ֕קָם בְּטֶ֛רֶם יַכִּ֥יר אִ֖ישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵ֑הוּ

Ruth arose early in the morning, after her meaningful overnight dalliance with Boaz, before one could recognize his neighbor.

The second is: וַתָּבוֹא֙ אֶל־חֲמוֹתָ֔הּ וַתֹּ֖אמֶר מִי־אַ֣תְּ בִּתִּ֑י

Ruth returned to her mother-in-law, who said “who are you, my daughter?”  Somehow, even at that early hour, Naomi recognized Ruth as her daughter, but that she had palpably changed.

There is a custom to stay up and learn all night on the first night of שבועות.  Those who do so find themselves walking to, or coming home from shul in the wee hours of the morning at the same time each year, before one would recognize his neighbor.  It is a quixotic state, one in which the individual is recognizable, yet palpably changed.  How well can we answer the question, “who are we?”

These past seven weeks thrust most of us into hibernation.  Our sleep patterns have been altered.  Irrespective of the extent to which we have undertaken formal learning, all of us have been changed in palpable but as yet unknown ways.  Governmental agencies around the world have set various numerical benchmarks for the advisability of social gatherings and intimacy.  As we gradually return from this pandemically-induced sojourn, we will no doubt reflect on what we have learned.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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3 Responses to Blog Ba’Omer – Part 3

  1. doctuhdon says:

    Outstanding analysis, Len !

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