Counting the Solitude

Modelled on the Jewish practice of counting the Omer, this prayer is for those counting their days in quarantine or lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

During this unprecedented era, many of us find ourselves periodically restricted to our homes, alone or with loved ones, for an indefinite period of time. We might be feeling scared and anxious, stressed, frustrated and even bored. Although these days, weeks and possibly months ahead may seem difficult, the opportunities for gratitude, blessings and joy persist.

As two rabbis with three sweet, curious children, we constantly strive to find ways to infuse meaning into both the ordinary and extraordinary, as well as bring comfort and peace to worried young minds and hearts. In spring of 2020, when the governor of Ohio announced a three-week long shut down of all K-12 schools (which we supported whole-heartedly), it quickly dawned on us that those three weeks would lead directly into Passover — turning a three-week long hiatus from in-person school, to at least five (and, ultimately, much longer). Not to mention, having our delightful trio home for Passover preparations (at least we’ll have extra hands to carry dishes and pots up from the basement!). Thinking ahead to Passover reminded us of the upcoming counting of the Omer, the day-by-day numbering of the seven-week period leading from the redemption from slavery, commemorated on Passover up to Shavuot’s celebration of the receiving of the Torah.

Just as we purposely count up those 49 days every year, so too we offer this way of counting up towards the ultimate in-person, regathering of our many communities.

ספירת ההסגר – Counting of the Quarantine

In an effort to focus on the things that make our days meaningful — the moments that make our days count — we chose to end each day by counting the quarantine. We suggest that to do this you gather your loved ones, either in person or virtually. Take a few deep breaths. Have each person share at least one instance of gratitude today. While filled with thoughts of appreciation, recite the following together:

הִנֵנִי מוּכָן וּמְזוּמָן לְקַיֵים מִצְוָּת עָשֶׂה שֶׁל פִּיקוּחַ נֶפֶשׁ כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרָה ״וּבָחַרְתָּ בְּחָיִים.״

Hin’ni muchan umzuman l’kayeim mitzvat aseih shel pikuach nefesh, k’mo shekatuv baTorah: “uvacharta bachayim.”

Here I am, actively ready to fulfill the mitzvah of saving lives, as the Torah teaches, “and you shall choose life.”

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הָעוֹנֶה בְּעֵת צַרָה

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, ha-oneh b’eit tzarah.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, The One who answers us in our times of crisis.

הַיּוֹם יוֹם אֶחָד לַהֶסְגֵר

Hayom yom echad lahesger. 

Today is the first day of the quarantine.

After the blessing has been recited and the day counted, choose a physical reminder of the completed day, such as:

    • A sticker on a calendar
    • Marbles in a jar
    • Coins in a tzedakah box (see-through preferred)
    • Jumping jacks corresponding to the days
    • Find something in your house that you have the same number of

Although none of us yet knows when this time of quarantine will end, we hope and pray that it will be soon, that God will hear our prayers for healing, and will bring us and our children back to a time where can all be normally social, instead of socially-distant.

Ensuing Days

The intention is to count in a similar way that we will be counting the Omer. First we count the days, then the weeks, noting that each is important and matters equally. Below are some more examples of how to count the days and weeks — each person should feel free to choose whether to count in Hebrew, English or both.

Day Two

הַיּוֹם שְׁנֵי יָמִים לַהֶסְגֵר

Hayom sh’nei yamim lahesger. 

Today is the second day of the quarantine.

Day Seven

הַיּוֹם שִׁבְעָה יָמִים, שְׁהֶם שָׁבוּעַ אֶחָד לַהֶסְגֵר

Hayom shiv’ah yamim, sheheim shavuah echad lahesger. 

Today is the seventh day, which is one week of the quarantine.

Day Seventeen

הַיּוֹם שִׁבְעָה-עַשָׁר יוֹם, שְׁהֶם שְׁנֵי שָׁבוּעוֹת וּשְׁלוֹשָה יָמִים לַהֶסְגֵר

Hayom shiv’ah asar yom, sheheim sh’nei shavu’ot u’shloshah yamim lahesger. 

Today is the seventeenth day, which is two weeks and three days of the quarantine.

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