The omer and G-d’s interaction with the world

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for answering my question relating to “counting the omer” in your last column. 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 W.

Dear Marc,

Rabbi Yaacov Haber, in his recently published work “Sefiros: Spiritual Refinement Through Counting the Omer” (www. Torahlab.com), 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 of light. The 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:

Chesed/kindness

Gevurah/strength or restraint

Tiferes/glory or harmony

Netzach/eternity or victory

Hod/splendor or beauty

Yesod/foundation

Malchus/kingship

These seven categories of G-d’s interaction with the world break down to seven times seven, or 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 thesefiros 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 kingship on the opposite end.

Mankind is created in the image of G-d. Therefore, these traits and behaviors of G-d are also our potential behaviors. During these 49 days we can study not only how G-d interacts with the world, but how we interact with the world. 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’s will, but we gain profound insights into ourselves. For as much as the sefiros reveal about G-d’s will 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; 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. When we are living according to the ways of G-d, we then become fitting receptacles of His divine will and, through it, a light unto the nations.

Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried is dean of DATA-Dallas Area Torah Association.

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