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Jewish Spirituality Pandemic Emails spirituality

Into the Omer

My email to my congregation on April 19

Dear Friends, 

Passover is over and we are in the period of the Omer when we count each day between Passover and Shavuot. This is a time of year when I often recommend picking up a new spiritual practice. This year is different. 

This year, I’m suggesting  that you look carefully at what you need for your own well-being. That might involve a new spiritual practice, but it could also be that you need to be placing fewer expectations on yourself. That what you require is not another discipline, but a relaxing of self-discipline. Permission to let things go more than you might normally be comfortable with. 

We are all dealing in our own ways. We each need different things. That’s okay.

For anyone who is interested in a new spiritual practice, there is a relatively new tradition of reading one chapter of the Bible each day. It’s called the 929, for the 929 chapters in the Hebrew Bible. We started the Book of Ezekiel last week and I spend yesterday catching up. While Ezekiel is a bit weird, I’m loving the opportunity to engage with this prophet at a leisurely pace. He is speaks from a time during the Babylonian Exile, speaking to us from a place of radical societal disruption. Somehow, this feels relatively relate-able (even if his mystical visions are the stuff of fever dreams). Here’s the website if you’d like to follow along: https://www.929.org.il/lang/en/today, or you can read it on Sefaria.org). 

As always, I am available for conversations, counseling, etc. Please feel free to be in touch by phone, email or text. 

All the best, David

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General Jewish Spirituality Rabbinic spirituality

The Omer: Making It Count

Between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, Jews traditionally count out the 49 days between. This period of time is called “the Omer.” Over the course of time, people have created various different counting calendars (much like Advent calendars). People have also used the counting as a way to add some practice to their lives, be it text study, or attempting some sort of “self-improvement project.”

Some years I’ve used the time to become more committed to blogging. Other years, I’ve tried to meditate more regularly during the Omer. This year, I’m thinking of trying to study some Jewish or spiritual text each day of the Omer.

Text study is, for Jews, a form of spiritual practice. For me, it is about reading the text and trying to understand two things:

  1. What did the author intend?
  2. What does the text mean to me?

Sometimes these two meanings are similar. Sometimes I find a personal meaning in the text that the author could not have intended, but makes the text deeply influential in my life. Sometimes the process of text study is more about decyphering Hebrew, and sometimes it’s more about re-interpreting an outdated text.

What texts will I be studying? I don’t fully know yet. I know I’d like to do some more reading in Psalms. But I think I’d also like to spend some time on later texts, probably either Mussar or Maimonides Mishne Torah. I’m sure I’ll wind up doing a wide variety of other texts as well. Maybe some Kabbalah or other Jewish mystical texts (Rav Kook?).

For me, the opportunity to spend some time studying Jewish spiritual texts is an opportunity to examine myself, how I am leading my life, and what matters to me. It is also a chance for me to stimulate my brain which will likely leak into increased creativity in other areas of my life.

What impact will this have on this blog? Probably there will be more frequent posts connected to the texts I’m reading. When I’m thinking about something, it has a way of finding expression here, so it’s likely that you’ll be getting a bit more Jewish content over the next 7 weeks.

For those of you counting the omer, I invite you to think about whether there is a habit you would like to inculcate in yourself over this period of time. If so, go ahead and give it a shot.