The first day of the Omer
April 21, 2008
Image by Pauline Frankenberg, from her series of 49 images for Counting the Omer.
I love counting the Omer, taking note of each day between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation. I love the kabbalistic framework which associates each of the seven weeks, and each of the days within each week, with one of the sefirot, manifestations or aspects of God.
Each evening one is meant to make the bracha for counting and then count the new day that's beginning. If one forgets a single day, one can pick up counting again, but can't make the blessing; the blessing inheres in the experience of daily mindfulness, in not dropping the thread.
I've found it surprisingly difficult to remain aware of the counting all the way through seven weeks. If you'd like help remembering to count this year, there's a great Omer resources page at NeoHasid.org, including a widget (for download or to place on a webpage; it's in the sidebar of this blog now) to remind one to count.
There are other lovely resources on that page, including recordings of different tunes for Ana b'Koach. I first encountered the prayer as part of Jewish Renewal Friday night liturgy; it's also recited during shacharit (weekday morning prayer.) Turns out it's also traditionally recited after making the blessing for counting the Omer. The prayer has seven lines, one for each day of the week and/or for each week of the Omer journey. (You can learn more about it here.)
So: today is the first day of the Omer. The first week is associated with the quality of chesed, lovingkindness; the first day of each week is associated with that same quality, so today is a day of chesed squared.
Chesed is associated with the patriarch Abraham, legendary for his hospitality (his tent was open to all comers), with the light of the first day of creation, and with boundless, flowing love. Counting the Omer calls us to embody our Abrahamic qualities today, to open our tents and our hearts, to let ourselves overflow.