Friday, April 22, 2016

Count the Omer 2016: Women of the Tanakh

Passover begins tonight, which means it is almost time to start Counting the Omer! As you may recall from the last few years, I love Counting the Omer. If you're new to Counting the Omer, here is what you need to know:

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. Beginning on the second night of Passover, we count for seven weeks from day 1 to day 49, ending on Shavuot. Counting the Omer is a mitzvah (commandment/good deed) that commemorates our exodus from Egypt (our physical freedom) and receiving 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): love, kindness, mercy
2. Gevurah (גבורה): strength, power, justice, bravery
3. Tiferet (תפארת): beauty, balance, compassion
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

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 characteristic 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 2 is gevurah within chesed, and so on.

This year, I would like to try something different. Instead of reflecting on the sephirot in a free-form manner as I have in the past, I will relate each day to a woman from the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible).

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
Go And Learn It: Count the Omer 2015, Day 1
Go And Learn It: Count the Omer 2014
Go And Learn It: Count the Omer 2013, Day 1