Counting the Omer
The Omer: A Journey of Transformation
The Omer was the barley offering made during the Jewish holiday of Passover in ancient times. The period known as the Omer refers to the period beginning on the second night of Passover and continuing for seven weeks, until the holiday of Shavuot, which marks revelation and the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
The omer is traditionally counted by number - with a bracha, or blessing, recited after dark / upon entering a new day. A blessing is said - “Brucha at Shekhinah eloteinu ruach haolam asher kidshatnu b’mitzvoteha v’tzivatu al sefirat ha’omer.” Followed by a statement of the number of the day of Omer counting that it is.
Kabbalists as well as plenty of Jews who don’t have particular background in kabbalah but have learned about the practice of counting the omer corresponding to the sephirot - the divine emanations that make up the tree of life - attend to particular energetic correspondences of each day of the omer period.
The kabbalistic tree of life is made up of ten sephirot, or divine emanations, which are also said to correspond with the human body. The upper three are keter / crown, atop the head, chochmah / wisdom, on the left side of the head & binah / insight, on the right side of the head. An hidden sephirah, da’at / knowledge is the integration and evolution of these, and sits at the throat. These upper sephirot are potent and are said to be beyond conscious awareness. They are an essential part of the tree of life map, though they are not directly engaged during the counting of the omer.
The omer period is 7 weeks long and each week of the omer corresponds to one of the seven lower sephirot. The first week corresponds with chesed / loving kindess / generosity / benevolence which is at the left shoulder and arm. The second week corresponds to gevurah / strength / power / discipline / boundaries which corresponds to the right shoulder & arm. These integrate and evolve into tiferet / beauty / balance / harmony which rests in the heart center and is the sephirah of the third week of counting the omer. The fourth week of counting omer connects with the sephirah of netzach / endurance / eternity / horizontal expansion. Netzach lives on the left side of the lower body / hip / leg. The fifth week of the omer corresponds to the sephirah of hod / glory / majesty / vertical portal. This energy is on the right side of the lower body / leg. The energies of netzach and hod integrate and evolve into yesod / foundation which rests along the lower body at the sexual center. Yesod is the sephirah of the sixth week of the omer and completes in the sephirah of malchut / sovereignty. Malchut is the sephirah of Shechinah and of the seventh week of the omer and rests in the root place of the body and is our strongest anchor to earth.
During the period of the omer, each of the seven weeks correspond to the sephirot named above. AND within each of these weeks there is yes another more subtle energetic journey to track, with each day of the week also corresponding to a sephirah, beginning with chesed and completing with malchut. Each sephirah day is placed insid eof the energy of the week, so that the first day is chesed / loving kindness within chesed / loving kindess. The second day is the day of gevurah / power & strength within the week of chesed / lovingkindess. We call this gevurah sheh b’ chesed (power & strength within loving kindness). The third day of the omer is tiferet / balance and beauty within chesed / loving kindness. And so on until that week completes with malchut / sovereignty within chesed / loving kindess on the 7th day. The eighth day begins the week of gevurah, and the first day of that week is chesed / loving kindness within gevurah / power and strength.
Each day of the omer period, we are invited to track the subtle energies of the sephirot of each day and each week, allowing their gifts and edges to enhance our journeys and to support our transformation.
Creative Ways of Working with the Omer
I find it entirely helpful to have structures to support the counting of the omer, or the following of the omer as a journey of transformation. Some folks may choose to make an omer calendar with a map of the sephirot to support them. The kinesthetic learner that I am, I prefer to make three dimensional blocks representing each sephirah that I can move and organize according to the day and week.
I also prefer to have an overall intention guiding my practice. For example, this years online course Sex & the Sephirot follows an erotic mapping of each of the sephirot week by week. Rather than attending to the nuance of each day, we are focusing on the particular sephirah energy of each week, as informed by erotic themes.
I suggest creating an altar to support you on your omer journey. It may hold images of the sephirot and kabbalistic tree of life, or may simple hold energetic or physical representations of the themes of that day or week. Having a place we bring ourselves to and tend can be deeply supportive toward anchoring energies and practices of transformation.
Most of all ~ have fun with this! Let your omer exploration be one of joy and discovery. Surround yourself with supportive and creative community so you have folks to check in and share your curiosities, synchronicities and discoveries with. And, always feel free to let me know how it flows.
Heartened and happy to be amidst this Omer journey with you!