Counting Up to Sinai: The Omer

Do you ever feel so focused on what is to come, that you miss what is before you?  When my family joins together for a meal, we laugh, we share, and we usually spend some time… talking about the next meal.  This readiness to discuss the next meal grows, not only from a stereotypically Jewish obsession with food; but also from a tendency to be in the next moment as much as we are in the present moment.  In its deep wisdom, Judaism does connect us to the lessons of the past and the hopes for the future, but Judaism also roots us firmly in the present.

In this present moment in Jewish time, we enter the season that begins with the second day of the festival of Pesach and continues until the festival of Shavuot.  This period is called the Omer, a term describing the measure of grain connected with the harvest of our agricultural biblical roots.  During this period of the Omer, there is a Jewish tradition to count, day by day, as a way to anticipate the revelation of Torah at Mount Sinai, which Shavuot celebrates.

The process of the countdown—actually, the count-up– turns us back to the hopeful story of Pesach and the message of liberation from narrow straits.  And it turns us forward to the story of the giving of the law at Sinai and the message of discovery of greater purpose.  If, before redemption we were servants to the Pharaoh, after revelation we are servants to God (or call it divine spirit, greater purpose, that which is larger than ourselves, many descriptions work here).

Even as we turn to the past and to the future, the counting, day by day, of the Omer, helps to root us in the present.  Jewish tradition teaches us to count each day and to recite a blessing for the counting.  Jewish mystical tradition develops the counting practice with weekly themes involving the Kabbalistic s’firot, or, divine attributes.  These weekly attributes serve as points of focus for our blessing practice.  The attributes are: Chesed (loving-kindness), Gevurah (might), Tiferet (beauty), Netzach (victory), Hod (glory), Yesod (intimacy), and Malchut (majesty).

Jewish Mysticism and Hasidism scholar Eitan Fishbane suggests the Omer offers a more powerful version of the experience that Jews undergo each week.  The six weekdays represent ordinary time and ordinary consciousness, and Shabbat represents a time of transformation into purity and heightened holiness and spiritual consciousness.  The 49 days of the Omer, the seven times seven, is an intensified process.

How can each day of the Omer become a moment in the journey from redemption—freedom, to revelation—freedom for a purpose?  How can we raise our consciousness as we count up to Sinai?  Our congregation will offer several paths for anyone who would like to experiment with a new Omer practice.  First, we plan to post a daily meditation on the blog, and share it on our Facebook page.  To visit the blog, simple go to the website and click the Blog link.  Second, at our weekly pre-Shabbat meditation on Fridays at 5:00 pm, our teaching will be inspired by the Omer in general or by the weekly Kabbalistic attribute for the Omer counting.  Third, in both venues, we will provide information about visiting the Refrom Movement’s website where you can refer to the traditional blessing.

May our Pesach be sweet and meaningful, and our journey to Shavuot be conscious-raising.

14 Responses to Counting Up to Sinai: The Omer

  1. […] Our counting of the Omer deepens the journey from Passover to Shavuot.  Join us each day with a teaching, blessing and announcement of the count. We begin with a week inspired by hesed, loving-kindness. […]

  2. […] this week’s daily counting of the Omer, we focus on loving-kindness, hesed.  Today, consider this teaching about embracing compassion and […]

  3. docbzf says:

    Reblogged this on docbzf and commented:
    We count the Omer UP … 1 to 49 , just as we light the Channukah candles UP … 1 to 8 .
    It seems that in Jewish rituals ,we ASCEND toward Holiness

  4. […] this 3rd day of the Omer, in our week of hesed (loving kindness) focus, consider the true meaning of the word hesed. […]

  5. […] we explore hesed in this first week of the Omer, stories of loving-kindness can inspire our own.  For 100 years, the JDC has extended […]

  6. […] laws regarding the Omer are very strict: every day matters and not one may be missed.  Not to waste a single day should be […]

  7. […] our counting of the omer during this week focused on loving-kindness, may try to strip away ego, distraction, all else but […]

  8. […] ideas are you all trying to implement that will help to protect our earth?  On this 8th day of the Counting of the Omer, we honor the sacred creation God renews each […]

  9. […] our 9th day of counting the omer, and our week focused on givurah, “strength,” we turn to the inspiring words that […]

  10. […] the mitzvah is just to listen.  For this week’s omer counting focused on strength, in reverence for next week’s observance of Yom HaShoah, […]

  11. […] says yes–anger is valuable when it drives us to stand against injustice.  For today’s omer counting and this week’s focus on might, givurah, we celebrate these girls who raise their […]

  12. […] the 12th day of the omer in this week of givurah, strength, the courage of one fashion model to speak her […]

  13. […] about the things that seem scary or the demons you imagine.”  For this day of counting the omer in the week of focus on givurah, strength, may we have the courage to overcome […]

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