The Counting of the Omer - How the Physical influences the Spiritual
We are in the fifth week of counting the Omer. Counting the Omer is a Biblical command (Lev 23:15-16). The counting of the Omer falls in the time-frame between the Exodus of Egypt (Festival of Pesach) and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (Festival of Shavuot). It is 7 weeks bringing us to the count of 49 days (7x7) where Shavuot will then fall on the 50th day. It is also the time where G-d healed the Jewish People from all their ailments, in order that they will be ready for the receiving of the Torah. That is why the month of Iyar falls within this time period. As we already mentioned, the Hebrew acronym of the word "Iyar" spells out "I am the G-d your Healer".
In Judaism, the material is as important as the spiritual. In fact, what we do in the material directly influences the spiritual. Therefore the physical counting of the Omer has tremendous spiritual repercussions. We are in fact able to make deep corrections within the spiritual world by doing the physical act. That is why the counting of the Omer is directly connected to the Sefirot.
There are Ten "Sefirot" or emanations, the higher three spheres (wisdom, understanding and knowledge) and the seven lower spheres (loving-kindess, strength and restraint, splendour and harmony, eternity, charismatic beauty and grandeur, foundation and kingship). G-d governs His world through these spheres/attributes - a spiritual system through which spiritual light and life emanate into our world from the higher worlds/heavens. The Jewish sages who had a much deeper insight into this “system of governance” that is embedded within the Bible (Torah, prophets and writings = TANAKH = Hebrew Bible), were able to extrapolate and relate this concept and its application to us through the sacred Jewish writings. Far from being just a written document, the TANAKH is written in the “multi-layered” Hebrew language, that when studied in-depth, communicates these spiritual dynamics - but that is a blog for another day.
"I am fearfully and wonderfully made".
In a very crude explanation, the Biblical attributes that we are commanded to live by are actually interconnected in a very specific way. You can almost say like a spiritual calculator. Just like a human being is made out of different organs, and those organs out of cells, so the spiritual world has a spiritual infrastructure of which the basic component is being the Sefirot. Our bodies reflect this spiritual sphere, as King David says in Psalm 139:14: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made". Therefore what we do, and how we live by these Biblical attributes has a significant influence in the higher spiritual worlds.
But like we said before, everything has its time (Eccl 3). And in the Biblical cycle, the time between Pesach and Shavuot is the auspicious time in which we can calibrate ourselves through these attributes. Every one of the attributes are coupled up with the others through the 49-day counting of the Omer. In the bigger process, as we've explained in our podcasts, we've organized and assembled the key elements of the "Radio" during the Pesach Seder Meal. Seder means order, and during that meal we have to follow a set of very specific instructions on how to conduct the meal - even the way we eat our matza, and the different combinations of when and how to eat it. You can liken it to the instruction manual on how assemble the radio. During the counting of the Omer, through calibrating the attributes with each other, and integrating it into our lives, we are fine tuning ourselves and tuning out the "white noise" (like tuning in a radio), so that on Shavuot - the Time of the giving of the Torah, we are able to hear G-d's voice and His instruction.
HOD - Become who you were born to be
This week we are in the week of HOD. Rabbi SR Hirsch explains HOD as follows: "The fullness of existence and of power, the personal greatness that inspires respect and reverence."
The word Hod appears multiple times in the TANAKH. One of the places where it is described in context with some of the other sefirot is in Psalm 96:6 where it says:
Honour and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Here is it is translated as honour.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber defines Hod as: "The grandeur and beauty of the NOW but in the context of eternity".
Hod is understanding what our skills and gifts are in order to apply it to our specific call (tafkid). It is understanding that we have received these gifts only to be partners in elevating this world to higher levels of holiness. Therefore we can not boast or take advantage of these gifts. When we move humbly and responsibly within these gifts and make a continuous effort to sharpen our skills, we will be able to reach that place of personal greatness that will inspire others to become the best versions of themselves too.