49 Days of Jewish Spiritual Practice

The Omer comprises 49 days, paralleling the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness, which in Torah comes the day after Passover begins, and ends with receiving Torah on Shavuot.

Originally, the omer was the measure of wheat brought as a donation of harvest gratitude to feed the Temple workers in ancient Israel. As our need for renewal of spirit builds in these troubling times, the Jewish spiritual renaissance continues unabated.

Kabbalists have developed a powerful spiritual practice for Sephirat HaOmer, Counting of the Omer through pairing it with a practice drawn from the intersection of authentic Kabbalah that accords with contemporary psychology and spiritual development.

The Kabbalists’ Omer practice is done based on a seven-week grid of seven of the ten qualities of what they called the Eitz Chayyim, the Tree of Life. The Tree is a mind map, a model, a metaphor for the source of life, and the mystery of the source of life manifesting as all that is apparent to us, including who we are and who we are becoming.

Three of the highest aspects, sephirot of the tree are not directly attainable. We can only conceive of them and at times experience the grace of the dimensions known as keter, “crown,” chochmah, “wisdom,” and binah, “understanding.” Refining the seven attainable aspects by combining them with each other and contemplating the new pair for each day is a powerful spiritual practice.

Omer Calendar for 2015 updated 4 14 15_Page_1

The practice transforms the 49 days into a very accessible spiritual journey that I highly recommend.

Many bloggers have taken up posting on the Kabbalists’ practice. For example, here is an excerpt from my daily omer blog on this practice for Day One of Forty-nine:

Walking in today’s omer state of consciousness, Lovingkindness within Lovingkindness, in Hebrew chessed sheh b’chessed, my sweet Hubbatzin Barry came upon a street sweeper pausing to help a very shaky homeless person write a sign asking for spare change.

Before the sun sets today there is still time for this Day One Omer practice — imagine being surrounded by more loving kindness than you have ever known, now allow yourself to fill with this glory, and express a prayer for this experience to untie your tangles, the ana b’koakh. Become radiant with this Love Song, know everything that lives is singing it, today, now, to you, each to all. Walk in the world, go out in this consciousness. Today has been Day One of the Omer.

My teacher, Rabbi Zalman, Schachter-Shalomi, of blessed memory, was certain that if all of us would undertake the innovative contemplative Omer path of the Kabbalists, that we would form a collective consciousness that would afford us the experience of synesthesia reported in the Torah.

All the people saw the sounds and the flashes, the sound of the shofar and the mountain smoking… (Exodus 20:14)

Reb Zalman hoped that from that precious point of consciousness, the metaphorical return to Sinai intended by Shavuot, we might bring down the needed new dimensions of Torah that can only be perceived as humans continue to evolve in the wilderness of our lives and times. So every year of our maturation as individuals, a people, and as a species, this is a valuable practice for the impact on our personal and collective lives.

A list of some of the many omer bloggers has been posted by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, a consortium of Jews from across the spectrum of Jewish life dedicated to the study and practice of Jewish life through the lens of serious scholarship and engaged spirituality.

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