It’s that time of year again, the 49-day period between the second day of Passover and the day before Shavuot known as Sefirat HaOmer, or counting the Omer, during which we well, count, as commanded. The traditional reason cited in the Talmud is that this is in memory of the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died in a plague for not honoring one another properly as befits Torah scholars.
It’s a weird, strange time, full of any number of semi-mourning practices (dependent on regional or familial custom), forbidding any combination of haircuts, shaving, listening to instrumental music, or conducting weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing. All such restrictions, however, are lifted on the 33rd day of counting, also known as Lag b’Omer, because it was on that day that the epidemic finally halted.
For those of us who are currently counting the Omer and following the restrictions of not listening to live or instrumental music, the Omer marks the beginning of a grueling five-week period of enduring just gosh-awful Jewish a cappella groups this side of college just to get a musical fix. (Because not everyone can be the Maccabeats.)
And so, as a public service, here are three not terrible a capella acts to help pass your Omer counting, and get a decent, non-instrumental musical fix.
Smooth McGroove covers the Final Fantasy VII battle theme
You may (MUST!) be a geek to truly appreciate this YouTube channel. And if you are, oh Moses’s beard are you in for a treat.
Pentatonix covers Daft Punk and Pharrell’s red hot jam from last summer, “Get Lucky”
If you’re looking for contemporary Top 40 stylings, these are your go-to guys. You will believe that a capella groups can not suck. Cray. Mazing.
Straight No Chaser covers Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”
Luckily, drinking is still a legit thing to do during Omer. So knock one back with these guys.
MaNishtana is the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish writer, speaker, rabbi, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn. His latest book is Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi.