Counting the Omer
hayom chamishah yamim ba’omer.
היום במשה ימים באמר
today is the fifth day of the omer.
The Omer is this incredible time between the second day of Pesach and Shavuot – when we remember leaving Egypt and when we recall standing at Sinai.
After dark, each night, we say the blessing for counting the omer and then we say the new count, getting us one day closer to Shavuot. The Omer is meaningful to me for two reasons – (1) the limbo of this time as we have left the grasp of Pharaoh’s hands but have not yet affirmed a covenant with God. Until we stand at Sinai, we haven’t yet exercised our rights as a collective free people to opt into God’s rule.
(2) the mystical or kabbalistic notion that the Omer is also seven weeks of focused self-improvement. Each week is associated with one of the sefirot and then each day within each week (day 1 of week 1, day 1 of week 2, etc) is also associated with one of those same sefirot. Each sefira has its own set of values or emotional traits. As we combine the sefira of a given week with the sefira of a given day within the week. we end up with 49 permutations of sefirot, each with a slightly different nuance of values to dwell on that day, as we prepare ourselves for that fateful day at Sinai.
In the days leading up to Pesach, we try to clean out our chametz. In the three days leaving up to the revelation at Sinai, the Israelites stay away from the mountain and prepare by cleaning and separating themselves. We prepare in these 49 days by cleaning out our inner selves and our the ways we relate to others. I can’t think of a better way to get ready for reaffirming our relationship with God on Shavuot.
This year I bought an Omer Calendar – a little booklet that takes you through each day of these seven weeks and explains the combination of sefirot for each day and how that might translate into ways you could change your interpersonal actions.
For example, this first week’s sefira is chesed. And today, as the fifth day of the Omer week, is Hod. Today is Hod of Chesed.
Chesed, often translated as “loving kindness” is being present to someone else and being attuned to their needs in the moment. Hod is related to hodaah or thanks. So the goal for today is to be thankful for the present moment that you spend with someone – not what was or what could be, just the awe of right now.
I just spent a few hours driving with a good friends, as we headed up to the mountains for the Yom Tov that will bring Pesach to a close. I have found myself getting caught up in what could be better about life but in reflecting on this hod of chesed, I realize how special it is to have that kind of friendship where you can be in a car for hours and keep talking and telling stories. I want to let people in my life know how much I appreciate them, but I don’t do it nearly enough.
Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder’s omer guide ‘The 50th Gate – A Spirited Walk Through the Counting of the Omer’ offers this practice for today: “reach out and make contact for the purpose of experiencing the relationship itself rather than with some goal in mind. Engage in a positive conversation, full of compliments, recognition and gratitude, celebrating the relationship itself rather than what is could become.”