On children, and suffering, and this day of the Omer
Happy Easter to those who celebrate!

A Sestina for Counting the Omer

We mark the Omer day
by day, spring unfolding light
as snowflakes in the breeze. One
follows another; we measure each week
of this dusty journey through
wild unknowing. Come and count.

Time to make our qualities count.
The kaleidoscope shifts every day,
each dawn a lens that God shines through.
What in me will be revealed as light
streams into me each week?
Seven colors of the rainbow make one

beam of white. God is One
and God's in everything we count.
Lovingkindness permeates the first week,
then boundaries, harmony, each day
a different lens for light
to warm our hearts as it glows through.

And when the Omer count is through?
We'll stand at Sinai, every one
-- every soul that's ever been -- light
as Chagall's floating angels. Count
with me, and treasure each day.
A holy pause caps every week.

Endurance comes into play: week
four. We wonder, will we make it through?
Humility and splendor in a single day,
two opposites folded into one.
Roots strengthen us as we count.
Every day, more work to do and stronger light.

Torah is black fire on white, light
of our lives. In the seventh week
time warps and ripples as we count.
Kingship and presence come through,
transcendence and immanence bundled as one,
wholly revealed on the forty-ninth day...

Feel the light now pouring through.
Each week the seven sefirot become one.
It's time to count the Omer, now, today.

Marc+Chagall+Floating+Flying+loversThe Counting of the Omer -- as regular readers no doubt know by now! -- is the holy process of marking and counting each of the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic system, each week represents one of the seven lower sefirot, and so does each day within each week. So the first week is the week of chesed, lovingkindness; week two is gevurah, boundaries; week three is tiferet, harmony; week four is netzach, endurance; week five is hod, humility and splendor; week six is yesod, roots or foundation; and week seven is malchut, kingship / sovereignty / Shekhinah. Within each week, also, the seven qualities play out day by day.

Chagall2"Every day there is more work to do / and stronger light" is a couplet from Marge Piercy's glorious poem "Season of the Egg," which I read every year during my Pesach seder. I abbreviated it slightly to make it work here as a single line. (You can find her poem online in this blog post -- just scroll down a bit.) And as for the reference to Chagall's floating angels, here are thumbnails of two beautiful Marc Chagall paintings which feature people floating. I like to think of them as people whose spirits can't help but soar.