Posted on April 23, 2021
Every night from the second seder until Shavuot, we count the days, tying together the physical exodus from Egypt with the Jewish people beginning to say yes to God at Mount Sinai. There is a Kabbalistic custom to connect the counting of the omer (sefirat ha’omer) with the kabbalistic understanding of the attributes of God (Sefirot). There are seven lower Sefirot, seven days of the week, and seven weeks of the omer count. The kabbalist assigned each week a Sefirah, a specific attribute of God according to the kabbalistic understanding, and then each day of the week rotates through the seven Sefirot. The first one is Hesed, lovingkindness, and the first day of the omer count is Hesed within Hesed. The second day of the count would be Gevurah within Hesed, and so forth. I am not kabbalistically inclined, to put it mildly, and this is a custom of the omer count I have always been quite happy to ignore, that is, I have always counted the Omer days without reference to the Kabbalist understandings of the Sefirot of God and have been perfectly satisfied with that.
A few weeks before Pesah I got a call from my son, Rabbi Rafi Spitzer (aka Rabbi Spitzer the Younger). “Ima,” he said, “would you like to collaborate putting together some quotes and journal prompts relating to the counting of the omer, with the goal of sending out daily omer reminders?”
“Are they supposed to be connected to the Sefirot?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” Rabbi Rafi answered. Hmm. This was WAY out of my comfort zone.
The plan was that each rabbi would take one week, relating to one Sefirah, and would put together a quote and a journal prompt for each day of the week. Rabbi Rafi would collate the whole thing and give each of us a series of seven weeks of slides that we could share with our congregations. It seemed like a good idea. But it had to do with that kabbalistic stuff. It would require a real stretch for me. It was hard. Out of my comfort zone. Maybe I should pass.
After considering the matter, I decided that the reach would be good for me. It would be positive for me personally to try a different way of expressing the mitzvah of the omer count, even if it is Jewish, new, and a bit uncomfortable. Maybe I would get something out of it, learn something new. And it would be a positive example for my community. After all, I ask other people to reach beyond their comfort zones in the Jewish arena on a regular basis. I should demonstrate that I too can do that. In the end, I decided to do it not in spite of the fact that it was out of my comfort zone. I decided to do it specifically BECAUSE it is out of my comfort zone. I called Rabbi Rafi and told him that I was in.
I was given the 5th week, correlating to the Divine attribute Hod, which I rendered as Glory. I thought about the idea of Glory as part of the Divine. What does that mean? I sought quotes connecting Hod with the other sefirot. Definitely a new experience for me. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. As a bonus, I have been enjoying getting the Omer Inspirations each evening, reading the quotes, and thinking about the journal prompts that my colleagues wrote. Yes, I like some more than others and I get more out of some than others. I imagine that you do too. That is to be expected. But overall, I am finding this an inspiring way to count the omer and I am pleased that I was able to reach out of my comfort zone. I recommend it.
The fifth week begins Sunday evening, April 25th, which is this coming week. Starting Sunday night and going until the following motzaei shabbat, you will be receiving the quotes I chose and the journal prompts that I wrote. The other six weeks are the work of 5 other rabbis (Rabbi Rafi took two weeks when one collaborator could not do it at the last minute.) I hope that you too are enjoying the omer count and the connection with the Sefirot.
Stay tuned for information about Torah study on the evening of Shavuot.