Fifty general sessions, eight Little Limmud sessions, one amazing opening session facilitated by Jakir Manela and an eye-opening lunch program discussing the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Gwynn Oak Park. Ten pounds of egg salad, 150 bagels, 200 desserts.  Four Taste of Limmud events, 16 Divrei Torah in the Baltimore Jewish Times, hundreds of flyers and emails. Two hundred participants of all ages, more than 50 volunteers, 279 days of planning — and Limmud Baltimore 2013 finally came!

I recall counting down the days to summer camp — something many kids and families are probably doing now — or taking an inventory of the programs I helped run when working for Hillel. Judaism is ripe with examples of checking the calendar, marking off days for ritual, convocation and celebration. This time of year is no exception.

From this week’s parsha, Emor:
“And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Day of Rest, from the day you brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete. Even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall you number fifty days; and you shall present a new meal-offering unto the Lord” (Vayikra 23:15-16).

From Maimonides’ commentary: “We count the days that pass since the preceding Festival [Passover], just as one who expects his most intimate friend on a certain day counts the days and even the hours. This is the reason why we count the days that pass since the offering of the Omer, between the anniversary of our departure from Egypt and the anniversary of the Law-giving. The latter was the aim and object of the exodus from Egypt.”

The first Annual Limmud Baltimore took place on June 10, 2012.  Since then, many of us counted down the months, weeks, days and hours until April 21.

This year’s Limmud Baltimore was filled with socializing, networking, sharing of Jewish products, exchanging information and, of course, learning. Sessions were presented on such topics as ‘”What Makes Us Holy” and “Greening Your Simcha.” We re-imagined ourselves into traditional Bible stories, created ritual items and learned about new liturgical music. Participants danced and stretched their bodies and minds. Old friends reconnected, and new friendships were formed.

Participants represented the spectrum of Judaism, but they had the same single destination in mind.  Much as the Israelites of old traveled from their homes to Jerusalem to give thanks to God on the three pilgrim festivals, “Three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place that God shall choose” (D’varim 16:23), participants and presenters traveled to Johns Hopkins University from Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Pikesville, Baltimore, Silver Spring and Potomac, Md., and from Washington, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Florida and California and from as far away as Israel.

We came from different backgrounds and experiences, but what we shared was a desire to “go one step further on our Jewish journey,” to learn more about ourselves and each other and to grow the Jewish community in Baltimore.

Would you like to be a part of this dynamic experience next year? There are just 365 days left until Limmud Baltimore 2014!

Sherri Vishner co-chaired Limmud Baltimore 2013 with Dick Goldman. Vishner is a social worker for Contemporary Family Services and works behind the scenes of Minyan Segulah, an independent minyan in Washington, D.C. She lives in Silver Spring.

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