Thursday, April 5, 2012

Counting the Omer

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

On the second night of Passover, we begin counting the Omer. We count the 49 days from crossing into freedom to receiving the Torah, the 49 days from redemption to revelation, from Passover to Shavuot, from the  Sea of Reeds to the Mountain of Sinai, from the depths of despair to the heights of joy, from physical enslavement to spiritual freedom, from the barley harvest offering to the wheat harvest offering, from the food of animals offering to the food of humans offering. We count 49 days. We count seven weeks of seven. We count seven weeks of Divine Attributes. We count a myriad of human emotions. We count the nights.

I invite you to count the Omer. I invite you to count the days and the nights, starting at the seder on Saturday night.

First we say the blessing:
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam, asher kid-shanu b'mitzvotav, vitzivanu, al sefirat ha'omer.
Blessed are you Adonai our G!d, ruler of the universe, who sanctifies us with its commandments and commands regarding the counting of the omer.
Or, alternatively,
Brucha at Yah, Eloheinu ruach ha'olam, asher kidshtanu b'mitzvoteha, vitzivatanu al sefirat ha'omer.
Blessed are you Ya our G!d spirit of the universe, who sanctifies us with its mitzvot and commands us regarding the counting of the omer.

Then we count:
HaYom yom echad laomer. 
Today is Day 1 of the Omer.

Tonight (Friday) the Moon will be full. Tomorrow night will be night #1 of the Omer. The Moon will be starting to wane. We will be starting our journey from the Sea to the Mountain.

What do you want to count?
Whom would you choose to remember?
What do you wish to mark?
Where do you dream to be?
What do you desire to notice?
What is the source of meaning?

Each day in the counting of the omer, each S'firah day, is connected to a combination of Divine Attributes, the Divine S'firot, or luminances. As we count, we are encouraged to engage with these attributes, both those emanating from the Divine, and those emanating from ourselves, as a way to help improve ourselves, to make, step-by-step, an upward physical and spiritual journey from the Sea to the Mountain, from Redemption from Slavery to Revelation of Torah.

These are the seven Divine Attributes associated with Counting the Omer:
1. Chesed - Lovingkingness
2. Gevurah - Justice and Discipline
3. Tiferet - Harmony, Compassion
4. Netzach - Endurance
5. Hod - Humility
6. Y'sod - Bonding
7. Mallchut - Sovereignty, Leadership

Each week during the Omer, we take one Divine Attribute and we connect it in turn each day to each of the other Attributes. WE also take a bit of nature to connect to these Attributes. We begin tomorrow night with the Moon, watching it diminish in size and brightness, and as we watch the natural cycle of the Moon, we connect it to the first of the seven Divine Attributes, Chesed, or Lovingkindness. Although the size of the Moon may appear to us to be diminishing, in fact, it does not change, just our perception of it, due to its illumination by the Sun, makes it appear to diminish. But we are headed toward Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon, and in Judaism, the new month, and so, as we think of Lovingkindness / Lovingkindness, let us feel the love G!d feels for us, let us allow that sense of being loved to grow over this week, and let us make that sense of G!d's love manifest in the world to a greater and greater degree through how we interact with others, by being kind, sharing our knowledge and our wealth.

So, I invite you to choose a question,  your own question, and count it - not down, but up - up from the Sea to the Mountain. I invite you to follow these posts, as I connect Earth to Omer, Earth to Torah. I will be on this journey with you, hopefully each night, but at least each week. On days I don't catch you, take the attribute of the week - this first week Chesed, Lovingkindness - and match it to the next attribute in the list, add in your question, and take a look at the natural world around you - this week the Moon, and then put it all together in your heart and your mind and your soul.

May you find yourself journeying from enslavement to freedom, and may that journey give you the strength to walk beside others and support them as they, too, journey toward greater freedom.

Chag Sameach - Happy Passover

With best wishes to all!

Katy

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Katy. I'll b counting with you.
    Viv Hawkins, The Shalom Center www.theshalomcenter.org

    ReplyDelete