Saturday, April 23, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 1: Naomi

You might have noticed at your second night seder tonight that we added a prayer:

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu melech ha'olam asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al sefirat ha'omer. Hayom yom echad la'omer.

Blessed are you, eternal, our God, sovereign of the world, who has made us holy with your mizvot and commanded us concerning the Counting of the Omer. Today is the first day of the Omer.

To continue Counting the Omer over the next seven weeks, you can find the daily blessings (and Jewish-themed Simpsons quotes) at Count the Homer. Here, we will be Counting the Omer Kabbalah-style (learn more at yesterday's introduction) by reflecting on the women of the Tanakh in relationship to the seven sephirot. This will make more sense as we get started (na'aseh v'nishma), so let's dive right into day 1.

Day 1: Chesed in Chesed, Kindness in Kindness

"But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, 'Turn back, each of you to her mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!'" (Ruth 1:8)
The book of Ruth begins with death. Having lost her husband and sons, Naomi decides to leave Moab, where she had lived, and return to her homeland to the city of Bethlehem. Her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, were Moabites and, since Naomi had no more sons to offer them in marriage, here she encourages them to return to their families to seek new husbands.

We will return to Ruth's and Orpah's response later in the Omer. For now, I would like to marvel in the incredible selflessness of Noami in this moment. Alone in the world and about to embark on a long journey home, Naomi offers to give up the only companionship she has left, so that Ruth and Orpah might still have a chance at happiness someday among their own people.

Chesed in chesed is kindness in kindness, love in love, mercy in mercy. By acting with love, kindness, and mercy toward her daughters-in-law in the face of her own unspeakable loss, Naomi truly embodies this concept.