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What is really going on in Sephirat HaOmer?


 

​We are now in a very special time of the Jewish year called Sephirat HaOmer (lit. “the counting of the Omer”). This is the period that connects Pessach with Shavuot. Countless commentators also write that it’s a time when we are preparing for the great holiday of Shavuot (the 50thday) when the barley Omer offering in the Holy Temple enabled the new crop of grain to be consumed.


The counting of the Omer can be done at night, after the stars have come out, and is recited with a special blessing. The counting begins with the words, "Today is the first day of the Omer" and continues with the number of days that have passed since the beginning of the counting. It is customary to recite the counting with a partner, and some communities even have public gatherings to recite the counting together.

Some people consider Sephirat HaOmeras a time of mourning. This is because, as we all know, the students of Rabbi Akiva died until the 33rd day of the Omer (Lag Ba’omer), the Hilula of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. The question the Ramah of Pano asks then is: why are we then so happy on Lag Ba’omer? There was no one else to die!

​This period also has prohibitions of listening to music and cutting one’s hair which are signs of mourning. However, Sephirat HaOmer continues even after Lag Ba’omer, so obviously these prohibitions allude to something else!

​Clearly, none of these explanations are satisfying, and the truth is, we don’t find so many chiddushim on Sephirat HaOmer according to the simple meaning.

But then again, dear reader, that’s not what you are here for, right?

 

The Kabbalah of Sephirat HaOmer

​The Ramban makes a comparison between the period of Pessach, Sephirat HaOmer and Shavuot, and the period of Sukkot, Chol HaMoed and ShminiAtzeret. Sephirat HaOmer is then compared to an extended Chol HaMoed. But what does this mean?

The Rasha’sh (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) writes that these are incredibly precious days in which a person must be vigilant because “the way he conducts himself in this period, that’s how they will guide him during the rest of the year”. In other words, the entire year is included in Sephirat HaOmer and so is heavily influenced by it. It’s as if this period is a microcosm of the entire year.

As we learned in previous articles, most of the Kavanot (mystical intentions) focus on bringing down the Mohin (Chokhmah, Binah and Da’at) to the Middot(Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malkhut). Sephirat HaOmer is in itself one long Partzuf (spiritual system) where we bring all these Mohin. This is why, the Rashas’h teaches, that anyone doing the kavanot of the regular days of the year is like one who commits Me’ilah (misappropriation of sacred items) and give light to the Sitra Achrah (“the other side”, evil)! This is simply because the vessels which we have every day of the year fall into the background and the ones for Sephirat HaOmer become the dominant ones. The regular vessels and spiritual worlds we are familiar with are suspended.

The blessing for Sephirat HaOmer rectifies the “surrounding aspect” of the light that comes down during this period. The Arizal revealed to us however that the “internal aspect” of the light comes when we pray to Hashem “May the Merciful one restore the service of the Beit HaMikdash speedily in our days”, after the counting. It’s also a great practice to recite the Psalm 67 in the shape of the Menorah, which you can find below:

 

Finally, we also pray the Tfilah “Ana B’Koach” which server to elevate the fallen sparks that have fallen throughout this period. Some Sephardim also have the custom of reciting the prayers of the Ben IshChai, which bring numerical allusions from the entire Tanach to the corresponding day we are living.

 

The illumination of the crown

​The Sifra D’Tzniuta (Book of Concealment) is a small section of 5 special chapters of the Zohar that contain the entire wisdom of Kabbalah. In it, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai writes that the Partzuf (spiritual system) of Arich Anpin of Atzilut, which associated with the Sephira of Keter, contains 7 Tikkunim(Rectifications). These are incredibly special illuminations that are not often revealed.

​The fifth Tikkun is called Ra’avah D’Ra’avin(“desire of desires”), which come to us on Shabbat, after Mincha. The fourth, however, is Amar Nekeh(“clean wool”, written עמר נקא) which is interesting because the word for wool in Aramaic “Amar” is cognate with the word “Omer” (עומר). This led many Kabbalists to say that during the entire period of Sephirat HaOmer, we are being illuminated by this Tikkun.

​We have to remember that all the illuminations that come from the Sephira of Keter are pure compassion and light, which shows that Hashem is really looking out for us!

 

Concluding Remarks

​There are many other Kavanot for SephiratHaOmer, namely 7 different systems of Din (judgments), which we must sweeten all of them every day. While it might seem like a difficult period for many people, the truth is that Hashem is simply taking a more direct approach to purify us. Much like the Jewish People were purified when they left Egypt, so too, we are able to take great strides and jump many levels during Sephirat HaOmer.

​May we be blessed to do all our Tikkunim this Sephirat HaOmer and merit the extremely elevated lights of Shavuot!


This article was written in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners, may Hashem help them attain their hearts desires speedily as well as klal Israel!


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