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Twenty Sixth Day of the Omer

From the night of the communal Seder or for most people from the second night of Pesach we start counting the Omer, which is a 49 day period between Pesach and Shavuot.

I particularly appreciate the Kabbalistic appropriation of the Omer period and calling it a period of cosmic cleansing. According to Kabbalistic tradition this is the period or an opportunity for personal growth so that when we come to the time of receiving the Torah we can appreciate the moment of Revelation to its full extent as well as to appreciate the wisdom of it.

So the whole period is divided into 7 weeks of focus on different Sferot or different qualities/powers by which the Creator was said to be manifested in the world. Every day we focus on different qualities in us and work on strengthening our character, our mind and our emotions.

For example, this week is the third week of the Omer, and is focused on Tiferet תפארת– representing beauty and glory and thus – according to Kabbalah -the balance between giving and receiving, as well as compassion and loving-kindness.

Next week’s focus is around Sfira called Netzah נצח, representing victory, positive energy and creativity.

I really appreciate the Kabbalistic contribution to the Omer period and from personal experience can say that following it helps one to become a more attentive, empathetic and whole human being.

But this period in our calendar also reminds me how further removed from Nature we have become.

The Hebrew word Omer literally means sheaf and refers to the beginning of the barley harvest, when, in ancient times, our ancestors brought the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking God for the harvest.

If the harvest was poor, it meant a year of starvation for our ancestors and uprooting themselves to move somewhere else as Abraham did or sending your children to a foreign land, not knowing whether they will would come back with food or not as Jacob did.

We are so lucky today to have such an abundance of food and its supply from all over the world that we are more concerned with our diets today than food availability. Apparently, there are some children out there who believe that food originates from supermarkets.

But this extra layer in the food chain removed us even further from Nature and our direct connection and dependence on its supply.

Most of us know that Nature has a very positive affect on us and being outdoors or surrounded by trees generates calmness, joy and creativity. Apparently spending some time walking outdoors or having a weekend away in rural places improves concentration, reduces anxiety and improves mental health.

So I would also like to encourage us to use this period of cosmic cleansing to strengthen our connection to the Natural World around us by arranging visits with our families, friends or fellow-members to some beautiful nature places or going for walks in more rural settings or just spending more time in your garden as well as dedicating some time for learning about our Planet, our home or by joining an EcoTeam, which dedicates its time to making our community as eco and sustainable for the healthier future of our children.

Let’s use this time to strengthen our connection to ourselves and the world around us. Happy counting and looking forward to

Shavuot celebrations!

Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich


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