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How Shall I be a Jew?  Let Me Count the Ways: Guide to Sefirat HaOmer

04/19/2022 08:04:17 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin


There are seven weeks between the freedom we won in Egypt, given by G-d, and the freedom we achieved at Sinai, receiving the Torah.  

This sacred history isn't a bit of antiquated trivia.  It is everything.  

To live as a Jew (as opposed to simply being a Jew) means to constantly leaving Egypt and ascending Sinai.  That's it.  Binary.  Either you are attaining freedom or you are heading back to slavery.  The "big three" of Judaism: Torah study, performance of Mitzvot and acts of lovingkindness are all mean to this goal of freedom.  Freedom isn't as Janice sang, "just another word for nothing left to lose".  The opposite actually.  Freedom is the only thing that is truly precious, that truly has value.  To be free is to be you.  But there is no freedom without living freedom.  Living freedom means taking responsibility for every aspect of your life.  And that is exactly what the Mitzvot are for- to teach us and to enable us to realize that there is never a time when we are marginal, never a decision that is not earth-shattering, never a moment that doesn't matter.

During these seven weeks, we are obligated by the Torah- and only a free person can be obligated.  A slave can be ordered- but a free person, no, only given a moral choice, an obligation to embrace or reject.  

We are obligated by the Torah to prepare ourselves for Sinai when we come face to face with G-d and realize that G-d is no stranger to us at all.  

How do we prepare for that encounter?  The Seven Week correspond to Seven Virtues that we are asked to consider and to develop.  Virtues that can lift us higher in the only way that matters: freedom.  They are called in Kabbalah the "Sefirot" or Divine Spheres of the Tree of Life.  They are comprised of Chesed (Love), Gevurah (Might), Tiferet (Glory), Netzach (Victory), Hod (Majesty), Yesod (Foundation) and Malchut, Kingship.  They are like a staircase to freedom.

I Chesed: Lovingkindness

The first week, we work on our virtue of kindness and empathy.

II Gevurah: Might

The second week, we work on our virtue of justice and doing the right thing.

III Tiferet: Glory

The third week, we work on truthfulness.  Being committed to truth is the most powerful spiritual weapon.

IV Netzach: Victory

The fourth week, we work on achieving our goals in a way that brings maximum benefit to ourselves which automatically means also benefits others. 

V Hod: Dignity

The fifth week, we work on respect.  On respect for ourselves which leads directly to respecting others.

VI Yesod: Foundation

The sixth week is the week of controlling our appetites.  The ability to say no to yourself for a worthy reason and goal, especially in this age of total surrender to the emotional and physical needs of the lower self, is like putting on a pair of wings that lift you instantly to the highest of the high.

Finally, the seventh week, the week of Malchut which combines and reflects and actualizes all of the others so that our first reaction to the obstacles we encounter is a reaction of kindness, justice, truth, triumph, respect, self-control and action. 

When we have achieved these levels, we are ready at last to experience G-d's presence and to receive the Torah.  And then?  Repeat at a higher level into realms unimagined where little by little the light that was hidden is at last revealed in the world.  Those are the stakes.  Together, House of Jacob, let us walk in the light of HaShem- בית יעקב, לכו ונלכה באור ה׳

חג שמח


Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784