I have loved Pesach since I was a kid. All my life it has been the brightest star in my firmament, the holiday I look forward to the most. And many of the things that I loved about it when I was a kid are still things that I love! But part of the joy of coming to a mature adult relationship with the holiday has been discovering new facets to savor. One of those facets is a little practice that begins at the second seder -- the counting of the Omer. "Omer" means "measures," and the counting of the Omer is the practice of counting the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.
This was not a big part of my childhood Pesach observance... and I had no idea as a kid that Pesach was the first step on the journey toward Sinai. But the winding path connecting our festival of freedom with our festival of revelation is a rich opportunity for contemplation and inner work. As the spring unfolds, so too can our hearts and souls.
If you're looking for resources for the Counting of the Omer, here are a few that I recommend:
- Rabbi Yael Levy’s Journey Through the Wilderness: A Mindfulness Approach to the Ancient Jewish Practice of Counting the Omer
- Rabbi Min Kantrowitz’s Counting the Omer: A Kabbalistic Meditation Guide
- Rabbi Jill Hammer's Omer Calendar of Biblical Women
- Rabbi Simon Jacobson's Counting the Omer
- And if visual art speaks to you more than does text, try D’vorah Horn’s Omer Series of paintings, available on beautiful printed cards for $36.
And, of course, there's my own Omer offering. Last year I released a collection of 49 Omer poems, one for each day of the count. It's called Toward Sinai, and it's available on Amazon for $12. Here's a description:
The Omer is the period of 49 days between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot. Through counting the Omer, we link liberation with revelation. Once we counted the days between the Pesach barley offering and the Shavuot wheat offering at the Temple in Jerusalem. Now as we count the days we prepare an internal harvest of reflection, discernment, and readiness. Kabbalistic (mystical) and Mussar (personal refinement) traditions offer lenses through which we can examine ourselves as we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew at Shavuot. Here are 49 poems, one for each day of the Omer, accompanied by helpful Omer-counting materials. Use these poems to deepen your own practice as we move together through this seven-week corridor of holy time.
Praise for Toward Sinai: Omer Poems
Rachel Barenblat has gifted her readers with a set of insightful poems to accompany our journey through the wilderness during the Counting of the Omer. Deft of image and reference, engaging and provocative, meditative and surprising, this collection is like a small purse of jewels. Each sparkling gem can support and enlighten readers on their paths toward psycho-spiritual Truth.
— Rabbi Min Kantrowitz, author of Counting the Omer: A Kabbalistic Meditation Guide
Rachel Barenblat comes bearing a rich harvest. In Toward Sinai, her series of poems to be read daily during the counting of the Omer, a poem chronicles every step between Exodus and Sinai. The poems exist in the voices of the ancient Hebrews measuring grain each day between Passover and Shavuot, and also in a contemporary voice that explores the meaning of the Omer in our own day. Together, the poems constitute a layered journey that integrates mysticism, nature, and personal growth. As Barenblat writes: “Gratitude, quantified.”
— Rabbi Jill Hammer, author of The Omer Calendar of Biblical Women
Your Torah is transcendent and hits home every time.
— Rabbi Michael Bernstein, Rabbi Without Borders Fellow
Toward Sinai: Omer poems is available for $12 on Amazon. If you pick up a copy, I hope you'll let me know what you think and how and whether it shapes your Omer journey this year.