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The Journey from Freedom

Personal Growth Through Counting the Omer

by Rabbi Bridget Wynne

May 2, 2024

Did you know that there is a profound Jewish practice that begins on the second day of Passover? It offers an opportunity to explore core Jewish values and reflect on how we might apply them in our daily lives. 

Called “Counting the Omer,” it is carried out over the 49-day period that begins following Passover and ends with Shavuot, a holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah. By counting each of these days, we mirror the Israelites' journey from liberation to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. Though freed, the Israelites were initially unprepared for the teachings necessary to create our community–-the Jewish people. And so, over 49 days they readied themselves, spiritually and psychologically.

Today, as we count the days from Passover to Shavuot, we too can ready ourselves for the responsibility and choices that freedom offers by focusing on our own growth as we continue to draw new teachings from the Torah.

Each of the seven weeks of the Omer is associated with a specific value or quality. Exploring these qualities, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationship with key ethical and spiritual principles. The qualities of the Omer are arranged so each one builds upon the previous one, creating a comprehensive path of growth.

The first week emphasizes Chesed, or loving-kindness. Chesed calls on us to cultivate compassion, empathy, kindness, and generosity. By carrying out acts of Chesed we can change our experience of daily life and our relationships, bringing greater love and kindness to both.

Each of the following six weeks focuses on another quality. They are listed below, each followed by one example of what it might mean in our lives.

  • Gevurah – strength, justice: strength of character, seeking justice

  • Tiferet – beauty, balance, compassion: acting without ulterior motives

  • Netzach – eternity: discerning what is of enduring importance in life

  • Hod – splendor, humility: pursuing peace

  • Yesod – foundation: moral commitment necessary for a life of meaning 

  • Malchut – leadership, sovereignty: carrying out our purposes in life

There are various resources you can draw on for exploring these qualities throughout the days of the Omer. Most of them also include combinations of qualities, one for each day, and you can use that approach if you want to go deeper.

Here are a few resources, plus this year’s calendar of the Omer.

  • Brief and accessible teachings about the weekly qualities from At the Well on Instagram.

  • Each week’s quality with thoughtful suggestions about ways to connect to them personally. 

  • Short daily videos with yoga for the quality of the day from Sandra Razieli, a wonderful teacher of yoga and Judaism

  • Omer Mixtape, with music for each week’s quality.

Calendar of the qualities of each week for 2024/5784

You can refer to each week’s quality in the left-hand column, or go deeper by exploring two qualities combined for each day. For example, May 3 is Tiferet combined with Gevurah.


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