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May 19, 2017  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Finding meaning in counting the Omer

By RABBI AARON M LEVER, BCC Gulfside Hospice and Pasco Palliative Care

We are currently in the time of S’firat ha-Omer (Counting of the Omer) – the spiritual practice of marking the 49-day period between the second night of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. During this period, the omer is counted every evening after sundown. In ancient times, this period represented the beginning of the barley harvest when Jews would bring a sheaf (omer) of grain to the Temple to thank God for the harvest. As we count up the days, S’firat ha- Omer links the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery in Egypt to the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

The Torah itself lays out the practice of counting the omer:

“You shall count from the eve of the second day of Passover, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God (Leviticus 23:15-16).”

I would like to recommend the book Omer: A Counting by Rabbi Karyn Kedar as a meaningful spiritual companion for the practice of S’firat ha-Omer. Rabbi Kedar’s book presents a beautiful opportunity for spiritual growth and reflection that can enable the reader to “mark time, express gratitude, refocus priorities, and contemplate deeply the meaning and purpose of our existence.” The book is structured with a different theme for each of the seven weeks and a specific meditation for each day. Rabbi Kedar’s seven weekly themes are: Decide, Discern, Choose, Hope, Imagine, Cour- age, and Pray.

Even though we are in the middle of S’firat ha-Omer, it’s not too late to begin studying the material presented in Rabbi Kedar’s book. Here is one of Rabbi Kedar’s omer reflections that I find particularly meaningful:

“Every now and then we have to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat that keeps us afloat. Because one simply should not chart a course carried by routine and complacency.”

“And though the tumble and rumble of fundamental change is chaotic and alarming and hard and disruptive and so frightening, and though it goes against our natural instinct to protect and defend who we are and what we know at all costs, sometimes the cost of staying the same is simply too great. Isn’t it? To live in the routine of it all, bored, un-actualized is really hard. Right?”

“The courage you will need to drill the hole and the struggle you will experience to stay afloat will empower you, transform you, and enliven you. It will be like a birth. Out of the waters, a stronger more vitalized person.”

“Excellence, creative energy, passion, and a sense of purpose require something different. Remember: spiritual and intellectual growth sometimes is a journey of risk and courage.”

“Sometimes you have to drill a hole in the boat that keeps you afloat” (pp. 126-127).

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al s’firat haomer.

Praised are You, Adonai our God, who rules the universe, instilling within us the holiness of mitzvot by commanding us to count the Omer.

Today is the thirty-eighth day – five weeks and three days of the Omer.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association which assigns the column on a rotating basis.

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