Posted on March 23, 2011
by Charlene Thrope
In this week’s parasha, Emor, is a detailed outline of the Jewish calendar. God instructs Moses, “And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering — the day after the sabbath — you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week — fifty days.” These words are said each night before we fulfill the mitzvah of counting the omer. As we count for 49 days, we mark the transition from the Exodus from Egypt on Pesach to the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.
Due to the death of hundreds of Rabbi Akiva’s students in the 2nd century, the omer has become a period of mourning. Weddings, haircuts, and shaving are all prohibited, with some exceptions. However, on Lag Ba’Omer, the 33rd day of the omer, the plague killing Rabbi Akiva’s students stopped, so we suspend our morning for one day and celebrate.
In addition to a period of mourning, the omer is an opportunity for spiritual growth. Each day of the omer is associated with two of seven s’firot, Kabbalistic aspects of emotion: chesed (kindness), g’vurah (discipline), tiferet (compassion), netzach (endurance), hod (humility), yesod (connection), and malchut (dignity). These small steps help us engage in a self-reflection process so that by the end of the seven weeks, we are ready to relive the revelation at Mount Sinai.