By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Thank you for answering my question relating to “counting the omer.” I was fascinated by the point you made at the end of your remarks that one can connect, during this seven-week period, to the seven Kabbalistic sefiros. Could you please elaborate more on that point?
Thanks again, Marc
Rabbi Yaacov Haber, in his work “Sefiros: Spiritual Refinement Through Counting the Omer,” sums it up the best: “The energy that G-d uses to create the world can be likened to a bright light. This light is so bright and so complex that we cannot even begin to comprehend it in its totality. White light breaks down into seven different colors when shone through a prism. Similarly, we can begin to understand G-d’s connection with the world by understanding seven aspects of His interaction with mankind and creation.”
In Jewish thought, these seven aspects are seven of the ten sefiros. In Hebrew, a sefira means a sphere, but its root safar also is the foundation of the words for story, number and boundary. Thus the sefiros divide the infinite unity of G-d into perceivable parts, enabling us to read the story of creation and subsequent unfolding of history and Jewish life.
The seven sefiros connected to the 49 days (seven times seven, of “counting the omer” from Passover until Shavuos), are the following:
2. gevurah/strength or restraint;
3. tiferes/glory or harmony;
4. netzach/eternity or victory;
5. hod/splendor or beauty;
These seven categories of G-d’s interaction with the world break down to seven times seven, 49 subcategories by each attribute combining with all six other attributes: for example, chesed shebachesed, “kindness within kindness”; gevurah shebechesed, “restraint within kindness,” etc. Just as the wavelengths of light go from red to violet, so too the sefiros appear to us in a certain prismed order, reflecting the full range of G-d’s actions in the world. These range from pure kindness at one end of the spectrum to kingdom and judgment on the opposite end.
Mankind is created in the image of G-d. Therefore, the traits and behaviors of G-d are also our potential behaviors. During these 49 days we can not only study how G-d interacts with the world, but how we interact with the world and our fellow man. We can learn how to act like and emulate G-d.
The Kabbalists revealed that the specific aspect of each day of the counting of sefirah allows us to perfect that sefirah within ourselves. In examining these behaviors, we not only gain a deeper, more beautiful understanding of G-d, but we gain profound insights into ourselves. For as much as the sefiros reveal about G-d Himself, they also hold the key to understanding what it means to be created in G-d’s image.
Furthermore, the keys to opening, maintaining and repairing our relationships with others are also held within these behaviors. In the process of examining the sefiros, we not only perceive the eternal bond that ties us to G-d. We also see the equally strong bond that ties us to each other.
This is our goal during this period. For us to appreciate the way G-d interacts with the world it is necessary for us to act in a G-dly manner. This is the way we prepare to “receive the Torah” every year on the holiday of Shavuos.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of DATA–Dallas Area Torah Association.