Emor Handout for Lesson 28
Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23

Counting the Omer
Sandy Kress

One of the most remarkable contributions of Judaism to the world has been its unique practice of infusing sacred meaning into ancient life cycle celebrations.   

A fine example of this is the way in which Jews have interpreted and lived out the command in Leviticus 23:15-16 to "count off seven weeks" between the offering of an omer of barley to the time of the first offering of wheat.  

On the surface, this appears to be a transition from one agricultural festival to another, from the spring to the summer, perhaps with gratitude to God for the grains from those seasons that sustain our lives.  

Such a reading has meaning and is worthy on its own. Yet, the text has been read to mean so much more.  

What is seen at this deeper level is the need to count and appreciate the days between the time when God redeemed us from Egypt and the time when God revealed the Instruction at Mt. Sinai. 

In other words, in our thoughts and spirits, we are to marvel daily from the time marked as that of the miracle of God's redeeming us to the time when the purpose of that redemption is manifested. 

We are redeemed to be God's people. We are redeemed to be in covenant with God. We are redeemed to become a kingdom of priests and holy nation in the world. We are redeemed to hear God's Instruction and be committed to living true to it and God's expectations of us.  

That's a lot to contemplate, to understand, and to commit to ways by which we honor and commemorate our gratitude and the Divine call.  

There are so many ideas that have been generated over the centuries on how we can well count these weeks. One of the loveliest has been the daily spiritual meditations developed by Simon Jacobson and published by Chabad.org

A general account of these meditations is set out below. 

Check it out and imagine the beauty and meaning of a 50 day journey in which one reflects on these moral aspirations and readies oneself in ways to live by them.  

We marvel at the grains from the earth that sustain us from season to season. And we marvel at the life God has given us to use from season to season in a manner true to Divine purposes.  

The Counting of the Omer  (Chabad.org)

With the mitzvah of counting the 49 days, known as Sefirat Ha'Omer, the Torah invites us on a journey into the human psyche, into the soul. There are seven basic emotions that make up the spectrum of human experience. At the root of all forms of enslavement, is a distortion of these emotions.

Each of the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot is dedicated to examining and refining one of them.

 The seven emotional attributes are:

The seven weeks, which represent these emotional attributes, further divide into seven days making up the 49 days of the counting. Since a fully functional emotion is multidimensional, it includes within itself a blend of all seven attributes. Thus, the counting of the first week, which begins on the second night of Pesach, as well as consisting of the actual counting ("Today is day one of the Omer...") would consist of the following structure with suggested meditations:

Upon conclusion of the 49 days we arrive at the 50th day -- Mattan Torah. After we have achieved all we can accomplish through our own initiative, traversing and refining every emotional corner of our psyche, we then receive a gift ('mattan' in Hebrew) from above. We receive that which we could not achieve with our own limited faculties. We receive the gift of true freedom -- the ability to transcend our human limitations and touch the divine.

Example - Day Two of Week 6:  Gevurah of Yesod
37th Day of the Omer

Examine the discipline of your bonding. Bonding must be done with discretion and careful consideration with whom and with what you bond. Even the healthiest and closest bonding needs "time out", a respect for each individual's space.

Do I overbond? Am I too dependent on the one I bond with? Is he too dependent on me? Do I bond out of desperation? Do I bond with healthy, wholesome people?

Exercise for the day: Review the discipline in your bonding experiences to see if it needs adjustment.

Emor Handout - Lesson 38

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