The Omer Dancing Poles of 5771 by Yael Raff Peskin

Drawing inspiration from the intricate weaving and dancing around Maypoles to celebrate the height of spring with a lively community celebration, last year we created not one, but two, community Omer Dancing Poles! The idea was to come up with a way of counting the Omer each day that would culminate in a celebratory community dance around the Omer Pole on erev Shavuot.

The first pole was modeled after the Maypole at my daughter’s Waldorf school, using webbing straps purchased at the local REI. They didn’t exactly have the pastel palette to match our silk scarves, but we managed to find seven colors that worked: Red (Chesed/Lovingkindess), Orange (Gevurah/ Structure), Yellow (Tiferet/Beauty), Light Green (Netzach/Endurance), Blue (Hod/Humility), Dark Green (Yesod/Bonding) and Purple (Malchut/Majesty). 

We bought two strips of each color. The streamers representing the seven days of the week were left to flow down from the woven willow branches crowning the top of the pole. The other seven streamers (representing the seven weeks of the Omer Period) were each attached to the willow crown all coiled up. When it was their week, they were uncoiled and each day a knot was tied, attaching the streamer for that day to the streamer for that week. To see photos of the Omer Pole knots, click here.

Even though we had 10’ long webbing straps, we realized that, after a while, the result was going to look more like a loosely woven basket (which was cool) but didn’t leave a lot of room for dancing on Shavuot. To see photos of the Omer Pole at Urban Adamah, click here.

So we created a second, larger Omer Dancing Pole. This one had a much larger willow crown and, each day, we attached another pastel grosgrain ribbon streamer (for the day) wrapped in a ribbon of sequins (for the week). In this way, we ended up with 49 wrapped streamers and had a lively dance on Shavuot, literally wrapping up the Omer period as a community!

The palette for the grosgrain ribbon streamers for the days matched the original silk scarves:  Dark Pink (Chesed/Lovingkindess), Light Pink (Gevurah/Structure). Orange (Tiferet/Beauty), Yellow (Netzach/Endurance), Lime Green (Hod/Humility), Turquoise Blue (Yesod/Bonding) and Deep Lavender (Malchut/Majesty).  Ribbons of brightly-colored sequins made up the palette for the weeks—Red, Light Pink, Brown, Gold, Kelly Green, Royal Blue and Deep Purple Majesty—seven of each color (for the seven weeks) wrapped around the seven colors of grosgrain ribbons representing the days of each week (so that the difference between Malchut sheb’Chesed and Chesed sheb’Malchut, for example, could be easily distinguished). To see photos of the Omer Dancing Pole, click here.

The Omer Poles began their journeys together at Wilderness Torah’s five-day Passover in the Desert celebration. After Lag B’Omer, the pole with the webbing straps spent the rest of the Omer Period at Urban Adama’s farm in Berkeley, CA. The larger Omer Dancing Pole culminated its seven-week trek (visiting various Jewish communities* in the Bay Area), with a lively finale at Wilderness Torah’s Shavuot gathering.  To see photos from Shavuot 5771, click here.

As the sun was setting on erev Shavuot, the entire community of over 100 celebrants made a large circle around the Omer Dancing Pole. I called in seven groups (of seven people each) to join in the final spiral dance:

Dancing the Omer Counting Pole – Erev Shavuot 5771

Chesed/Dark Pink:  Children

LOVINGKINDNESS:  Celebrating our children’s outpouring of energetic love, playfulness, open-heartedness, pure joy, unconditional love, sweetness …

Gevurah/Light Pink:  Parents

STRUCTURE/DISCIPLINE:  Honoring all of the parents who offer guidance, balancing out the children’s pure outpouring exuberance with a parent’s rootedness, groundedness; Bringing strength, loving discipline and structure to tender hearts.

Tiferet/Orange:  WT Staff & Village Council

BEAUTY/HARMONY/COMPASSION:  The blending of both Chesed and Gevurah; Recognizing the masters of balancing the greatest outpouring of lovingkindness with  gentle discipline and incredible offerings of structures and forms (leaning slightly more towards chesed); working together in harmony to bring forth  a festival infused with beauty.

 Netzach/Yellow:  People who began the journey at Passover in the Desert  &  People who participated in crafting the Omer Pole during the last seven weeks (from other communities); or People who have participated in other WT festivals (if more needed)

ENDURANCE:  Honoring those who sustain and strengthen our Wilderness Torah community over time; whose endurance and commitment encourages us onward. Bringing fresh, vibrant beauty and adornment to creatively enliven earth-based ritual rooted in tradition.

 Hod/Green: Teachers bringing festival offerings

HUMILITY:  Honoring those who bring us beautiful teachings with humility and a deep sense of interbeing; modeling how to bring offerings to our community and into the world; great teachers who are always open to learning 

Yesod/Blue:  New People & Kitchen Staff

FOUNDATION/SENSE PLEASURE:  Celebrating those who support the foundation of our being – Welcoming the enthusiasm, courage and fresh energy of new people who are always joining us in celebration, expanding our growing community; Honoring those who feed us so lovingly and completely with the most wholesome, beautiful local organic fresh seasonal foods and all the care they take to delight our palette and feed our souls.

Malchut/Purple:  Elders

MAJESTY/GENEROUS SPIRIT/WISE PERSPECTIVE: Honoring and celebrating our elders; Lovingly supporting and encouraging those who have travelled many years in this world to step into their roles as mentors and guides in our community.

*  Over the course of the Omer Period  of 5771, the Omer Dancing Poles visited and were co-created with the following communities:

Week 1:  Wilderness Torah – Passover in the Desert, Panamint Valley

Week 2:  Omer Counting Chevruta, Oakland

Week 3:  Hazon Shabbaton/2nd Annual CA Bike Ride, Westminster Woods & Walker Creek Ranch

Week 4:  Or Zaruah Reconstructionist Chavurah Retreat, Wildcat View Campground, Tilden Park

Week 5:  Congregation Netivot Shalom – Lag B’Omer Retreat, Camp Newman

Week 6:  Sebastopol Omer Counting Chevruta

Week 7:  Wilderness Torah – Shavuot on the Mountain Hawkridge Campground, Chabot Park

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