One Day of Omer 5779

I am in my third year of rabbinical school and this is the third year I am publicly counting the Omer. Growing up, this was an arcane tradition that we included on our second night of Passover Seder. I never knew anyone who counted all seven weeks and I never knew a meaningful reason to do it. An omer is a unit of barley. The barley offerings at the Temple began on Passover, and continued until the wheat was harvested and brought on Shavuot. In the Middle Ages, the Jewish mystical tradition added a layer of meaning to this count that has made it one of the highlights of my spiritual year. We are given the opportunity to journey within ourselves, to more fully embody freedom. Purifying ourselves through our meditation on the lower seven sephirot, we create vessels worthy of being filled with Divine Revelation on Shavuot.

Today is the First Day of the Omer, 5779.

It all begins with the Grace of Grace. The Love of Love. חסד שבחסד. Chesed SheBe Chesed.

The Tanya teaches that we should purify our thoughts, speech, and actions. It is important to begin with thoughts because those are closest to our soul and when we have impure thoughts, we tarnish our soul. I often stumble over today, wishing that one year the order would be changed, allowing me to work my way into Chesed rather than attempting to start from this place. Over the years, I have built up an heavy armor to protect myself from the world. I am rooted in Gevurah, Disclipline / Strength, desperately seeking Chesed.

When I hold one of my sons and when I chant the bedtime Sh’ma for them, these are times when I allow myself to feel the grace that surrounds us always. As hard as life can be, as painful as life can be, as crazy as the world around us can seem, the Soul of the Universe is emanating Love and that Love surrounds us from one end of eternity to the other. Today, I choose to ignore the stories I’ve told about myself all these decades. I choose to approach each moment with love in my eyes. I will allow pure Grace to transform my thoughts to their highest level. I choose to see the Divine Light radiating through each and every living being with whom I interact. I choose to meditate into the love striving to be actualized. I choose to give birth to the most loving version of myself. I choose to subjugate my Yetzer HaRa, my inclination towards destructiveness.

This week of chesed, may I break free of sarcasm and doubt. May I open myself up to full-throated, unabashed Love. May I see the Grace that surrounds me at all times and act with grace and humility.

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Day One of the Omer 5778 / 2018

Day One of the Omer 5777 / 2017

Two Days of the Omer 5778

Today is two days of the Omer, גבורה שבחסד, Gevurah ShebeChesed, Discipline / Discernment in Love.

When Chesed enters the world of human interaction, it can only be healthy after being refined by Gevurah. Pure love without boundaries is unhealthy in human relationships. We each must recognize that another soul exists and that our love cannot create or consume that soul’s journey.

Similarly, if we offer love without discernment, we are not truly supporting our beloved. A child needs to learn boundaries to thrive in the world. A beloved cannot be a partner if she does not understand what your needs are. Similarly, acquiescing to every expectation of your beloved is a sign of lower Chesed, Chesed that has been tainted and twisted. Human love must make space for your own needs and desires. You must have a vision of where you want to go in order to support any one else’s journey.

People often remark how stressful it must be that I’m in rabbinical school with two toddlers. As if the love and responsibility of parenthood somehow makes it particularly difficult to study ancient wisdom. While sleep deprivation can be problematic, I find my life easier than when I was working full time. Because now I am able to do things that fully support my soul’s journey toward actualization; whereas when I was using my secular skills, it was easier for me to get caught up in my ego’s pain. Perhaps from the outside it looks like I am not as focused on my children as other people are — my fervent hope is that I am modeling boundaries, allowing them space to explore life without me. And sometimes, my desire for discipline overwhelms my capacity to express love. Toddlers are uniquely gifted at ignoring instructions and the patience it takes to always speak from love is a key thing I am working on today and every day.

Some information on why I am writing these meditations….Jews are commanded to count seven weeks of Omer, beginning on the second night of Passover. Originally, omer was a measurement of barley. Passover was the spring harvest festival when ancient Israelites would begin the barley harvest. By counting seven weeks, they knew when to harvest their wheat, which is the original purpose of the Shavuot (“weeks”) festival.

Kabbalists, Jewish mystics, mapped the lower seven emanations of the Divine to this count. By studying different aspects of each emanations on each day, you participate in a process of purification, making yourself a vessel capable of receiving Divine truth on Shavuot.

The Sephirot can be used as a psycho-spiritual system, helping to define the values one holds most dear and how those values should help you interact with other people. I believe this information can be useful to anyone, regardless of their beliefs. I don’t think you need to “believe” in the Sephirot to access this wisdom, nor do I think you need to believe in God or be a Jew to meditate on these values. My meditations are enhanced by the Chabad Omer counting app and my years learning from Rabbi Finley at Ohr HaTorah Synagogue (Los Angeles). I write these daily thoughts after counting the Omer, so they are posted at night since Jewish day’s start after sundown. And in case you don’t know me, I’m a second year rabbinical student at AJRCA.