Post by Rabbi Lee Moore
Shavuot is just around the corner. Meaning ‘weeks’ in Hebrew, this under-observed holiday among many North American Jews celebrates the offering of first fruits in Temple times and, according to Rabbinic teaching, the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai following the Exodus from Egypt. The period between Pesach and Shavuot is marked by seven weeks of “counting the Omer” each day. As the tradition of Omer counting developed, each week and day came to be associated with its own unique set of reflections, based on the Kabbalistic concept of the Sephirot – emanations that channel the Divine creative force into the manifest world.
This year, we at Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah invited a group of colleagues to offer their reflections on the various Sephirot and the implications they have for our lives today. Continue reading
Guest post by Nigel Savage, President of Hazon
I am not a kabbalist but I love the rhythms and the specificity of the omer and of the Jewish calendar. The calendar is a kind of mirror, each day and each week. It offers refracted questions that are universal and timeless, and yet also unique to each one of us in a particular time and place.
This is how we may read the weekly parsha; and this is how I count the omer.
From Purim to Pesach we get rid of our chometz; the superfluity that stops us being free. So on seder night we are able to be truly free; free from all sorts of things – oppression, want, hunger. But seder night is only the start of the journey. Now we have to figure out what to do with our freedom. And so we count the omer, the seven sefirot, representing different aspects of our being in the world, leading us towards becoming the person we aspire to be.
Malchut, the last week of the omer, is thus a culmination. The 49th day of the omer, malchut she’b’malchut, is the last day of the omer and the penultimate day of a cycle that begins with Purim, pivots around seder night, and ends with Shavuot, the giving of the Torah – which is, at it were, the 50th day of the omer.
So malchut – this week; this last day – is our opportunity to think about openness and kindness; about boundaries and discipline; about beauty and balance; about endurance, simplicity, humility, fundamentals, sexuality. Each of these aspects of who we are and of how we choose to live has been the subject of the different weeks of the omer. Malchut – literally kingship – suggests that we have immense power and immense responsibility. It invites us to use our power and our choice wisely.
Life speeds past us so quickly.
Jewish practice offers multiple techniques to slow down and appreciate the passing of time, the change of the seasons, the preciousness of the days that we have. Without a reminder, a gimmick of sorts, it’s hard to remember to do this kind of inhale and exhale that can help us get a handle on our lives as they otherwise speed past.
Counting the Omer begins the second night of Passover to offer such an opportunity — both to stop and appreciate the next 49 evenings, and to continue the same kind of self-reflective work that many of us begin at the Seder when we ask ourselves: where am I stuck? How can I help myself and others become free? Continue reading