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.