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Omer: Part One

04/12/2017 05:14:03 PM


Tonight we begin to count the Omer. This is a tradition that I did not grow up with and I guess that few of you did either. In ancient days the Israelites were instructed to count seven weeks from the evening of the second night of Passover – a total of 49 days – and then on the fiftieth dy to bring loaves of bread made from the new grain as part of the observance of the holiday of Shavuot. When the temple was destroyed this practice ended. However the counting of the days became the focus and in recent years the reform movement has adopted this custom as well.

This time period is supposed to be a spiritual preparation for Shavuot – for the recounting of the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This is the singular moment in our people’s past and present. We are taught that not only the people of that generation but that all Jews, of all time, were present at the foot of Mount Sinai as we received the Torah. This is not history or story, this is our deep personal memory!

Counting the Omer is a time of joyous anticipation. When we finally reach the end of those 50 days, we re-experience the greatest moment of our existence – the moment when with our people we stood in God’s presence. This was the moment of total personal fulfillment.

The Kabbalists linked each week of the Omer to the lower seven spherot. Basically the Kabbalists understand humanity to operate (or spiritually need to operate) with in ten spheres – the seven lower being easier to attain than the top three. They suggest (and I loke the idea) that we look at each week in the following way:

Week 1 – Hesed - concentrate on lovingkindness and love. Each day find a way to appreciate those who mean the most to you. Listen deeply as a practice each day. Express your love for God by loving God’s creations.

Week 2 – Gevurah – strength to impose upon ourselves limits and structure. What are the areas in our life that would be improved if we could assert a little more self discipline? Each day of this week we attempt to do the things we know we should but often don’t.

Week 3 – Compassion – Can we show more compassion during this week? Can we recognize the people who we tend to judge rather than accept? Can we be more compassionate with our own personal shortcomings?

Week 4 – Netzah – Endurance – How often have we begun a task and left it unfinished? How often do we set goals and not work hard enough to attain them?  This week we work to increase our personal endurance.

Stay tuned for Weeks 5, 6 and 7 in the next blog!

Fri, September 18 2020 29 Elul 5780