The Counting of the Omer – Sefirat HaOmer
Tonight we are counting the 9th day of the Omer period. Tomorrow, Monday, is the 9th day.
On Pessach, Jews all over the world started counting the Omer period. Seven weeks from the second day of Pessach until Shavuot. I am sure that there are many Jews out there who don’t really understand what is going on and why we still have to count a certain period where new barley was being brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. What does this have to do with me today ? Although the Omer is a biblical commandment, many Jews may see the whole issue as not really important.
The Jewish Kabbalah, however, presents us plenty of comments on the “Counting of the Omer”. The counting has a deep impact on our soul and may lead us to a Tikun (soul rectification). Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the RAMCHAL) describes deeper insights in the book “Kitzur HaKavanot”. Among others that the seven weeks stand for seven Sefirot. Each week a different Sefirah.
The ten Sefirot are a symbolic system in Kabbalah in order to make us understand G – d’s attributes. Not really understand but at least grasp something. Without this kabbalistic symbolism, we wouldn’t be able to define G – d’s creation of the world. How could we, as our own human understanding is very limited compared to G – d’s endless and eternal wisdom ?
The first week of Sefirat HaOmer is, according to the RAMCHAL, the week of Chochmah (Wisdom). Every night while counting, Jews are able to cause a Tikun und thus transfer themselves on a higher Madrega (Level).
I am anything but a kabbalistic specialist and in order to understand the text of the RAMCHAL, I need to do plenty of further studying. What Kabbalah is basically teaching us in this respect is that, during those seven weeks, we have the power of perfeting ourselves. A spiritual preparation for receiving the Torah on Shavuot. And this is what Jews do on Shavuot: Receiving the Torah anew.
It was Pessach when the Jews left Egypt and 50 days later, they received the Torah at Mount Sinai. The entire period of 50 days is seen as a spiritual cleansing process of the soul. When the Jews left Egypt, almost all of them only had a slave mentality. Moreover, many of them were influenced by Egyptian culture and mentality. If G – d hadn’t decided to finally take them out, almost all of them had soon or later fallen into Egyptian idol – worship.
Slavery kills your own free will because you totally depend on your owner. You do what he says and he makes all decisions for you. In the end, you are not even able to manage your own life but always wait for further orders. This is how the Jews left Egypt but G – d wanted them to learn how to make decisions and lead an independent life.
The Sefirat HaOmer period is a time of mourning. At least until the 33rd day (Lag Ba’Omer). A day when the plague stopped killing Rabbi Akivah’s students. At the moment, however, we are still in the mourning period and listening to music, men don’t shave and no weddings are taking place. Now the great contradiction comes: A mourning period and no music. However, the State of Israel is going to celebrate its Independence Day in the middle of the Omer period. With huge celebrations, parties and the country’s greatest celebration is going to take place at Tel Aviv’s Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square).
How then can Jews celebrate in the middle of the Omer period ? Is this allowed or is there a contradiction ?
The truth is that many Haredim don’t celebrate Independence Day not only because they are against the present State of Israel but because we are still in a mourning period. National religious Jews, on the other hand, do celebrate Independence Day. However, they do so in a religious way and those of you who are in Jerusalem on this year’s Yom Ha’azma’ut: There will be a religious Independence Day celebration at the Great Synagogue at King George Street. The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi is going to speak and the choir will sing. Sometimes the President of Israel pops up and makes another speech.
I am not the most enthusiastic Independence Day celebrator. Nevertheless, I am grateful that there is a State of Israel where Jews can go to without depending on the nations alone. After all those years in Israel I cannot imagine ever returning to the Diaspora in order to live there.
My Omer calendar as magnet on the fridge. Including some advertising from the haredi supermarket chain Osher Ad 🙂
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