Sunday, April 5, 2015

Count the Omer 2015: Day 1

Welcome to another thrilling journey of self-reflection. That's right, it's time to Count the Omer! If you're new to Counting the Omer, I have included some really great resources below for you.

Literally, an omer is a unit of measurement, and when the Temple stood, an omer of barley was given as an offering on the second night of Passover (which was last night). Beginning on the second night of Passover, we count for seven weeks from day 1 to day 49. Counting the Omer is a mitzvah, beginning with Passover and ending on Shavuot. The counting commemorates our exodus from Egypt (our physical freedom) and God giving us the Torah at Mount Sinai (our spiritual freedom).

Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) teaches that human experience is made up of seven sephirot (characteristics or emotions) and as we Count the Omer, we should also contemplate our inner selves. Just as the Israelites moved in seven weeks from slavery to freedom, we should seek in these seven weeks to better ourselves.

The seven sephirot are:
1. Chesed (חסד): loving-kindness, mercy
2. Gevurah (גבורה): strength, justice, power, severity
3. Tiferet (תפארת): beauty, balance, integration, miracles, compassion, spirituality
4. Netzach (נצח‎): eternity, endurance, victory
5. Hod (הוד): splendor, majesty, glory (sometimes translated as humility)
6. Yesod (יסוד): foundation, connection
7. Malchut (מלכות): leadership, kingdom

Clearly there are many (sometimes conflicting) translations of each of these sephirot, but we will do our best to work them out over the next seven weeks.

Each week and each day of the Omer represents a different emotion and they go in order, so it is easy to follow along. The first week is the week of chesed and the first day is also chesed, so day 1 of the Omer is chesed within chesed.

Day 1: Chesed within Chesed
Loving-kindness within Loving-kindness or Mercy within Mercy

We begin with love, because, as every good poet and Harry Potter fan knows, love is the greatest power in the world. I'm not sure that the Beatles were entirely right in thinking that "all you need is love," but it is certainly important and love is stronger and more enduring when it is all-encompassing, mutually reciprocated, within and without. That, I think, is chesed within chesed; not only to love, but to express it.

I'll be counting for the next 49 days, so feel free to follow along!

Resources for Counting the Omer
The Homer Calendar
Judaism 101: The Counting of the Omer
Aish: The ABC's of the Omer
Aish: Daily Omer Meditation
My Jewish Learning: How to Count the Omer
Omer Friends Style (daily Omer meditations as they relate to Friends)
Go And Learn It: Count the Omer 2014
Go And Learn It: Count the Omer 2013, Day 1

G-dcast's 49 Facts for 49 Days