I wanted to do the third and final installment of my post on prayers and praying… but when I realized we were in the exact middle of the Counting Of The Omer, it seemed like it was a good time to delve a little deeper into that.
Tonight’s counting will be Day 25, Netzach ShebeNetzach.
I quite like the Omer Counter app from Chabad.org as it reminds you when to count… gives you the prayer, as well as a daily meditation from Tzvi Freeman and the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. These lessons have also been collected and compiled in his book Bringing Heaven Down To Earth. Yet another book on my very long and growing reading list.
Because I am still a bit green, I actually missed a few days at the beginning … and there was a literal Rabbinical debate as to whether or not I could actually continue to count. Two Rabbis… two different ideas… and me in the middle. Well, I have continued to count and am well back on track. The app will not let you say the blessing if you miss a day… but will let you pick back up… so there you go!
This period of counting is rather profound for me, as it addresses several elements of Judaism that often seem at odds to me. I know that one of the criticisms of Judaism I have heard over the years, is that it is a religion of rules and dictates. While I suppose this is partly true… the Ten Commandments… the 613 Mitzvot/Commandments… counting the Omer for 49/50 days… If that is all you get out of Judaism and all you see it for, you are missing so much of the joy and richness of this amazing religion and of course, life itself.
According to Wikipedia… and yes, I know I could have used a myriad of more “Jewish” sources… the “Counting of the Omer is an important verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot as stated in the Hebrew Bible: Leviticus 23:15–16.”
So… basically each night we are counting. Hmmm… Counting?That does seems rather, well… cold.
But Wikipedia goes on further to say that: “The idea of counting each day represents spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah which was given by God on Mount Sinai at the beginning of the month of Sivan, around the same time as the holiday of Shavuot.”
And it concludes with: “Thus the Counting of the Omer demonstrates how much a Hebrew desires to accept the Torah in his own life.”
Ah ha! Yes, I just had a Rabbi Oprah “Ah Ha” moment.
If one was simply to do nothing but count, that could be a methodical and meaningless endeavor… And back in my days of being much more secular, and understanding so very little, I might have seen it this way.
But the counting of the Omer goes way beyond that. It is preparing us and reminding us how important accepting Torah into our lives really is…
And Tzvi’s meditation for tonight captures this duality most perfectly!“We are trees, living two lives at once.”
“One life breaking out through the soil into this world…
Then there are our roots, deep under the ground, unmoving and serene. They are our ancient mothers and fathers, who lie within us at our very core…
Our strength is from our bond with them. With their nurture we will conquer the storm dn bring beauty to the world within which we were planted.”
This counting is about growth… literal and spiritual… it is about honoring the past and all who came before us… our literal and spiritual mothers and fathers.
We “count Sefirat Ha-Omer, in order to purify us from our evil and uncleanness.”
We count “so that the souls of Your people Israel may be cleansed from their defilement.
We count so that we may “be rectified and I may be purified and sanctified with supernal holiness. May abundant bounty thereby be bestowed upon all the worlds. May it rectify our nefesh, ruach and neshamah from every baseness and defect, and may it purify and sanctify us with Your supernal holiness.”
Rules… commandments, yes. But a profound and beautiful and deep connection to those who came before us and to what lies ahead… to making this world a beautiful and loving and peaceful place… To growing and remembering… always.
So we are counting for ourselves, yes… but mostly for those who came before us and for those who will come after… to keep this world pure…
And so they are counting on us to count. Amen! Selah!