Zionism and anti-Semitism in the new Zeek
Faithful friends

How to count my days

Help me understand how to count my days
How to embrace my life
That I may nourish a heart of wisdom

(from Psalm 90, rendered by Norman Fischer)

One of the things I love about the practice of counting the Omer is how it links Pesach with Shavuot, liberation with Torah, freedom-from and freedom-toward. I love how the practice literally involves counting our days. Making our days count.

In the kabbalistic imagination, the seven weeks of sefirat ha-Omer (counting the Omer) match up with seven divine and personal attributes. And within each week, too, the seven attributes appear. The qualities are chesed (lovingkindness); gevurah (justice and discipline); tiferet (harmony, compassion); netzach (endurance); hod (humility); yesod (bonding); and malchut (sovereignty, leadership). Imagine a grid, with the same seven qualities across the top and across the side; each day is an intersection-point between those two qualities.

I have a little book by Rabbi Simon Jacobson called A Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer, which offers one page for each day. You can find some of those teachings distilled online in Counting the Omer: Week One, which explores the resonance of the seven-by-seven grid and offers kavvanot, intentions or understandings, for each of the days of the first week.

Today -- week one; day two -- is the day of gevurah in chesed, discipline in lovingkindness. "Healthy love must always include an element of discipline and discernment; a degree of distance and respect for the other," Rabbi Jacobson writes. And, later, "Rain is a blessing only because it falls in drops that don't flood the fields." The exercise he suggests for today is to help others on their terms -- not on mine.

That sounds simple, but I know it's not. How often I want to show love for someone by offering the help I myself need! And maybe I imagine it's the help they need, but I don't ask them what they're actually looking for because I'm so certain that the gift I'm offering is right. My intentions may be loving, but if I allow my love to overflow, or if I push a kind of love on someone that isn't actually what they want or need, then that love is misguided.

A lot to think about today. How discipline interacts, and intersects, with lovingkindness. How structure shapes fluidity. And also how it feels to be on, and in, the second day of the Omer -- two little steps toward the timeless connection we made with the Infinite at Sinai. Already we're leaving Egypt behind, and leaving the first nights of Pesach behind, moving into the desert and the wisdom we hope to reach.

Online tools for enhancing your sefirah: I've already mentioned the JRF's online Omer count / study group. It's also noteworthy that BZ of Mah Rabu is counting the Omer at Jewschool this year, and plans to work through all 613 mitzvot during these 49 days. He's posting roughly 15 each day, and opening up the doors to discussion of the mitzvot and what they mean to us. The first post is here.

Technorati tags: , , .