The Omer and Global Assaults Against Women


by Rabbi Pamela Wax

 49th day of the OmerMalchut she’b’malchut

Despite my best intentions, I am, sadly, not a daily pray-er nor a daily meditator. However, for seven weeks during the year, I do have a daily spiritual ritual — that of counting the Omer. I let the combination of sefirot brew inside of me during my day; I tease out meaning from them, wait for them to serendipitously play out in my personal interactions or as the just-right gem to share in a pastoral encounter.

For instance:

  • What is my capacity for follow-through (11th day of the Omer – netzach sh’b’g’vurah)?
  • My capacity to be helpful without being patronizing (15th day – chesed sh’be’tiferet)?
  • My capacity to be humble without withdrawing from the world (34th day —yesod sh’b’hod)?
  • Or today’s kavanah/intention: My capacity to honor and affirm my own divine uniqueness regardless of outward success or failure (49th day – malchut sh’b’malchut)?

(These particular kavanot are drawn from Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s Omer Journal, though I draw my inspiration from the many Omer calendars that are now available both online and in book formats).

As we stand poised at Sinai on this 49th day of the Omer, I am sad to bid adieu to the richness of this period of time in my spiritual life. And yet, another part of me is grateful to put this year’s Omer behind me. These past weeks seemed particularly hard on women around the world, affecting my equilibrium and tainting my (albeit unrealistic) hope for an Omer period of pure, unadulterated peace and balance in which to do my “spiritual” work (conveniently forgetting that spiritual work includes the dark shadows lurking in the corners!).

During these weeks we witnessed:

  • the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls by a militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which purports its intention to sell them into slavery
  • a homicidal rampage in Santa Barbara, sparked by the murderer’s generalized rage at women for spurning him
  • the anti-Wendy Davis/anti-choice posters featuring Davis’ face on a mostly-naked Barbie doll with a plastic baby in her belly
  • yet another “honor” killing of a Pakistani woman whose family wanted to punish her for marrying the wrong man (close to 1,000 honor killings take place in Pakistan annually!)
  • this past week’s Torah reading in Parashat Naso about the Sotah, arguably the most misogynist passage in Torah (only topped by the vitriol perpetuated in the rabbinic commentary ofTractate Sotah)
So-called "Abortion Barbie" doll featuring Wendy Davis

So-called “Abortion Barbie” doll featuring Wendy Davis

Though long-sensitized to women’s issues and particularly issues surrounding reproductive rights, I was particularly aware of the confluence of these news items because of the recent education I have been receiving from the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) – I am proud to be one of the 18  AJWS rabbinic global justice fellows, poised to go to Kenya this August to engage in their campaign to defend women’s, children’s, and LGBT rights.

AJWS’s new We Believe campaign, a national advocacy campaign of AJWS, calls on the US government to do three things to promote human rights in the developing world:

1)     stop violence against women and girls

2)     stop hate crimes against LGBT people, and

3)     empower girls to end child marriage.

Through We Believe, AJWS mobilizes American Jews and other supporters of human rights to ensure that:

  • The U.S. Congress passes the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).
  • The Obama administration plays a leadership role in an unprecedented international effort to end hate crimes against LGBT people.
  • The U.S. Congress fully funds efforts to empower women and girls in the developing world, including those to end child marriage.

ACT NOW:  (1) You can sign on to the petition to be sent to your Congresspeople at or at, encouraging them to support the International Violence Against Women Act. Better yet, call or send them a personal letter! (2) You can also educate your constituencies about the AJWS We Believe campaign.

Tonight may you hear God whisper, “Women, children, and LGBT folks are standing tonight at my mountain, too.” Now, that would be a revelation!

Chag sameach!

Rabbi Pamela Wax is the Staff Rabbi and Spiritual Care Coordinator at Westchester Jewish Community Services in White Plains, NY where she runs a Jewish Spiritual Healing Center,