Susan Barth
Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Bernard Madoff and The Omer – Lessons to Learn

Last week’s announcement of the death of Bernard Madoff  again puts the spotlight on the $16 billion Ponzi scheme which Bernard Madoff orchestrated and which left countless victims in financial ruin. In particular, the losses to Jewish charitable institutions and individuals was staggering.

The timing of Bernard Madoff’s death and the Omer

In Judaism, there is no such thing as “coincidence” and the timing of Madoff’s death at this time of year is important to reflect upon. The period of time between Passover and Shavuot is known as the Omer for many reasons. The article “What is the Counting of the Omer” explains the historical significance of the period of time and what it represents.

The Period of the Omer and Lack of Respect

What is of particular relevance here is the “coincidence” of the death of Bernard Madoff during this distinct period of mourning. This period of time also commemorates the tragic death of the 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva who died in a plague in the weeks between Passover and Shavuot. A number of mourning practices were instituted during this time especially principal among them being the custom not to hold weddings during the time of the Omer. The deaths of the students were considered especially tragic as the reason cited is the lack of respect which the students displayed for one another.

The fact that we commemorate the mourning practices until this very day during this time shows how much the idea of respect plays such a cherished value in our heritage.

Lessons to be Learned

In the case of Rabbi Akiva, who was devastated by the loss of his students, he transformed his own grief into positive action. He started afresh and acquired new disciples, the most famous of whom Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai we celebrate on Lag B’Omer.

The death of Bernard Madoff during the Omer likewise highlights the modern day consequences when respect is violated between our fellow Jews in particular. It is hard to fathom what untold destruction could have been spared had Bernard Madoff‘s Ponzi Scheme been prevented from being perpetrated.

However, to me we need to particularly focus on what events are taken place now that require an extra measure of respect and most of all open communication. And this is where the home becomes the best “experiential grounds for practicing the traits.”

A New Beginning

As of Lag B’Omer, the custom for some is to hold weddings and emerge from this period of darkness. For new couples starting out it is the perfect opportunity to exhibit the adage of Rabbi Akiva of “Love your fellow as yourself” in an atmosphere of abounding love and respect.

Towards this end, this period of time between Pesach and Shavuot is also notable for the concentration on character refinement as each day of counting concentrates on a character trait.

An Event Focusing on Learning Skills for Marriage

Our Amuta, Together in Happiness, is co- hosting with the OU Israel a special event which focuses on providing marriage education insights.

Make a Date to Create a Marriage that Lasts

May 4th, 8:00-9:30PM

Calling all dating, engaged & newly marrieds (up to 2 yrs)

A Zoom Seminar Featuring:

* Rabbi Reuven and Rabbanit Shani Taragin with Insights on why Marriage Education is so critical for todays’ new couples

* Live Model transformative I-PREP Marriage Education workshop presented by veteran facilitator Susan Barth

Free of Charge! Registration:

Time to Take Stock

The Omer is the ideal period for all of us to reflect on what we can do to help spread respect and positivity within our spheres of influence and re set our priorities to what actions will emphasize harmony and unity. An event such as the one cited is intended to give foundational skills and tools for couples starting their journey together. Each of us has the obligation to help create opportunities for brotherhood and apply the lessons from the tragic story of Bernard Madoff and build bridges of love for one another.

Let us start today and take to heart the lessons of this week’s Torah double portion which also has themes for love and marriage and why the Kohen Gadol must be married.    Wishing you a joyous Shabbat.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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