Counting the Omer A Mystical Tikun
By Nachum Mohl
Ancient Israel's economy was based primarily on agriculture and many of the sacrifices included the produce of the land. The Omer was an offering of barley that was brought immediately after the Passover. It was cut from the fields on the night after the first day of the Passover with great ceremony and brought to the Temple, prepared and offered. During our long exile much of our holidays have lost its agricultural emphasis and it was replaced with the inner spiritual dimension that does not require being in the Land of Israel. Although we are returning to our ancient land, that inner spiritual meanings are still valid and now accompanies and compliments the understanding of holidays and mitzvoth.
Counting the Omer, or S'firat HaOmer as it is called in Hebrew, also has had its mystical aspect revealed. Today, we count the Omer as a connection between the holiday of Passover and the festival of Shavout.
The Omer is the proper name of a dry measure, similar to a barrel or basket. Grain was measured by the Omer. The word in Hebrew for measure is mida (plural: midot). Interestingly enough, the same word is used to describe personal character traits.
The word s'fira (plural: s'firot) also has two meanings: counting and emanation. Counting: as in S'firat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer and emanation: as in the mystical concept of light which is emanates from a source of illumination.
According to mystical thought, there are seven midot and ten s'firot. The ten s'firot are listed below in order:
Chochmah this is the first and highest aspect of logical being, it is the apprehension of a concept, the lightning flash of inspiration.
Binah is the aspect of expansion of that which was comprehended by chochmah. It is the building block of all thought and related to the Hebrew word boneh, build, and to ben, son (the building block of the family)
Da'at is that aspect of connectivity and transference from the upper levels of chochmah and binah to the lower seven levels which are the midot that follow. When we say some one has no da'at¸ we mean that his intellectual capabilities are not in line with his emotional actions because his intellect does not rule (no connectivity between the chochmah and binah to the lower seven midot) over his emotional aspects.
Chesed is the aspect of giving out, also known as kindness.
Gevurah is the aspect of withholding, also known as strictness.
Tifferet is known as beauty, or more exact, the blend two different aspects.
Netzach is related to chesed since it is in a line below chesed, but it is other related, meaning that it takes into account the receiver as opposed to chesed which is giver related
Hod is related to gevurah since it is in a line below gevurah, but it also is reciever related, as explained above
Yesod - is related to tifferet since it is in a line below tifferet, but it also is other related, it is the assimilator and feeder to malchut which is below it. It takes from the other s'firot and passes it down to malchut.
Malchut is the lowest aspect. It is the total reciever which has nothing of its own except that which is passed down unto it. It known as the feminine aspect whereas the upper six s'firot are known collectively as ze'ir anpin which is the masculine aspect of the s'firot.
Each of the last seven s'firot, from chesed to gevurah are known as midot in mysticism. Each person when he is created is given a certain measure of each which determines his particular personality. It is his spiritual work to refine those midot which he possesses.
Now when we look into the Torah, we find the number seven used conspicuously in several occasions. The most obvious is in the creation of the world. In six days the world was created and on the seventh G-d rested, therefore we have not only a seven day week, but we rest on the seventh day.
In addition we find that there is a seven year cycle in regard to planting and working the land that was observed in the Land of Israel during the time of the Temples. Six years the land was worked and on the seventh year the land was not worked. Loans were also subject to a seven year cycle.
In terms of spiritual purity and defilement, we also find that in many instances a period of seven days must be observed to change from defilement to purity. As an example that of a zav or zavah, one who has an impure discharge, a seven day period is prescribed for purity.
We thus find the number seven synonymous with returning to a state of purity.
Most people erroneously believe that the seven s'firot come from the seven days of creation, but it is just the opposite; the seven days of creation, the seven days of the week, the seven days of the Sabbatical year, and the seven days of purity come because of the seven divine s'firot or as we know them, the seven divine midot.
Now as we approach the festival of Shavout, which is 49 days from Passover, seven times seven, we begin to make a repair through counting these days. For we have been told that G-d created not just this world, but also a previous world that was destroyed because of the inability of the seven midot to include one within the other. Each mida remained a pure and unaltered mida, uninfluenced by the other. Since there was no inclusion of one within the other, the midot became too exclusive. The world was not able to exist with pure chesed or pure gevurot.
(To better understand this, understand giving as unmitigated giving (pure chesed). The giver gives the benefactor not just a bit, but much too much, like a extremely wealthy father who gives his small son an unlimited expense account without relation to the son's needs. This will ruin the son. Consider also the other extreme, a father who withholds (gevurah) all goodness from his young son. This will also cause a serious problem in the son. So too, there is a detrimental condition generated when the midot do not intermingle and modify one another. )
Therefore in order to best be able to receive the Torah, we must go through a period of seven weeks in which each week a new mida is repaired by including other midot. The first week is chesed; therefore the first day is chesed in chesed, the second day is gevurah in chesed, the third day is tifferet in chesed, etc. The second week we begin gevurah; chesed in gevurah for the first day, the second day is gevurah in gevurah, etc.
In this manner we can achieve a manner of spiritual purity and character balance that enables us to properly receive the Torah as not just a legal and historic document, but as a spiritual connection to the upper spiritual levels of G-dliness that are unattainable by reading the Torah as a great literary classic, but rather by elevating ourselves to our spiritual pinnacle the Torah becomes a resource guide to attaining even higher and loftier elevations.
from the May 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine