Let yourself be surprised by patterns, images and designs.”
This is the first part of a practice proposed by Rabbi Yael Levy for the 17th day of counting the Omer.
As a lover of design and photography, I was drawn to this exercise, especially since Rabbi Levy continued with this admonition: “When you feel off balance . . . shift your attention by seeing and naming something beautiful, something that inspires love.”
So what is counting the Omer?
Thanks to daily emails from Rabbi Levy, and her gem of a book (link below), I am enjoying a spectacular first exposure to this ancient practice. And I wanted to share a short introduction, since there are still several weeks left and you can jump in, if you like.
Here are a few basics:
1. Counting the Omer, or Sefirat Ha-Omer, refers to marking the days between the second day of Passover – when a sheaf of newly harvested barley was brought to the Temple as an offering – and the first day of Shavuot, celebrating the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai.
You shall count for yourselves seven weeks.
From when the sickle is first put to the standing crop
Shall you begin counting seven weeks.
Then you will observe the Festival of Shavuot for the Lord, your God. – Deuteronomy 16:9-10
2. Like many Jewish moments, counting the Omer embraces history and agriculture. “In addition to celebrating our going out of Egypt,” Shoshana Silberman wrote, “Passover marks the beginning of the barley harvest.” Close your eyes and imagine our ancestors waving sheaves of barley and praying for a good harvest.
3. Rabbi Simon Jacobson tells us that the seven-week period gives us time to examine the seven basic emotions making up the whole of human experience. Blending his translations with those of Rabbi Yael Levy, you have:
- Generosity, loving kindness (chesed)
- Strength, judgment (gevurah)
- Harmony, balance (tiferet)
- Endurance, eternity (netzach)
- Gratitude, humility (hod)
- Bonding, connection (yesod)
- Majesty, divine presence (malchut/shechina)
If you want to participate this year, here are a few resources you can explore:
Susan Windle’s “Through the Gates: A Practice for Counting the Omer.”
An article by Rabbi David Wolpe
Or just search for “counting the Omer” + blogs and you’ll find a variety of points of view.
Have you found something particularly helpful to you? Or has your understanding of counting the Omer deepened over the years. Please share your discoveries, your learnings with us.