All of this month of April and into May, we will be following the tradition of Sefirat HaOmer, or counting the Omer. Back in the days of the temple in Jerusalem, an omer was a measure of barley that was to be brought to the temple until the wheat was received at the holiday of Shavuot. It took 49 days for the wheat to ripen and to be harvested. This process has now evolved from an agricultural one to a spiritual one.
The root of the word sefirat is the same as that of the word sephirot, which are the 10 emanations of God in the Kabbalistic tradition. As such, some people choose to observe the counting of the Omer by focusing on one aspect of the 7 lower sephirot during each week of the counting. For example, the first week is Chesed: lovingkindness, Grace, compassion. Then we focus on each different permutation of that quality. The first day is Chesed of Chesed. The second is Gevurah (strength, discernment) of Chesed. The third is Tiferet (beauty, balance) of Chesed. And so on.
The 7 lower sephirot are as follows:
1. Chesed (lovingkindness, Grace, compassion)
2. Gevurah (strength, discernment)
3. Tiferet (beauty, balance)
4. Netzach (endurance, victory)
5. Hod (glory, splendor of physical forms)
6. Yesod (foundation, basis)
7. Malchut/Shechina (indwelling Presence,
By striving to improve ourselves in each of these different categories, we are making ourselves worthy to receive the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot. We count the days because it helps us to remain present and conscious as we journey on this path of self-realization. May we all work to recognize these qualities in ourselves during this time.
“You shall bring an omer of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest: and he shall wave the omer before God to be accepted for you.” Leviticus 23:10-11