April 13, 2022
With so much going on in the world that is largely out of our control, it is important to focus on what is within our sphere of influence. Fortunately, we are about to enter a potent period of time on the Jewish calendar that affords us the opportunity to focus on our own personal refinement. Counting the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer) is a 49 day Kabbalistic spiritual practice which begins on the second night of Passover and culminates on the holiday of Shavuot. During this seven week period we relive the historical journey from Exodus to Sinai.
Biblically, this period marks the beginning of the barley harvest when, in ancient times, Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking God for the harvest. The word omer literally means “sheaf” and refers to these early offerings.
In its biblical context, this counting appears only to connect the first grain offering to the offering made at the peak of the harvest. However, as the holiday of Shavuot became associated with the giving of the Torah, and not only with a celebration of agricultural bounty, the omer period began to symbolize the thematic link between Passover and Shavuot.
The thematic links of course are oppression, redemption, and liberation ~ a period of wandering in the desert or the wilderness, and an experience of revelation and awakening upon receiving Torah.
Counting the Omer during these 49 days allows for an inner exploration of our core human attributes, and to refine them as we move on the calendar, day by day, in cycles of 7, from our redemption at the Sea of Reeds, to the transformative moment at Mt. Sinai where we received the gift of Torah. And when we arrive at the mountain at the end of the 49 days, having worked on refining ourselves and our inner qualities, we are in a position to receive Torah anew!
Liturgically, for this period of time, it is traditional to count the omer every evening after nightfall. There is a blessing to recite and depending on which tradition, there are additional prayers to be recited. Each of the seven weeks, we focus on a particular attribute such as lovingkindness, discernment and boundaries, harmony, perseverance, humility, relationships, and grounding/integration. Each day within that week, we explore different aspects of the trait.
There are many resources to guide the practice, including:
The Counting of the Omer: Forty-Nine Steps to Personal Refinement According to the Jewish Tradition, by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
Omer Counter App (Chabad)
Check CBI’s Facebook page during the Omer for my daily Omer Chaiku related to the days Omer count.
Chag Pesach Sameach! Blessings for a liberating Passover and a fulfilling seven week journey to Shavuot!