Updated Guide to Counting the Omer

Sefirat haOmerThe most well-known and helpful companion for counting the Omer is Rabbi Simon Jacobson’s guide.

Guide to Personal Freedom has been published for many years and has been very helpful for me personally in making my Omer days count.

This year (2015/5775) and the next (2016/5776), we have an amazing opportunity for super-charged days of Omer: When Pesach co-insides with Shabbat, counting of Omer starts on Sunday, or Yom Rishon – the first day of the week is the first day of the each Omer week. This means that the energy of the weekday is the same as the energy of the Omer day we count. This affords much more significant potential for rectification and refinement of our emotional traits corresponding to the Sefirot of the Omer.

Below is that very guide from Rabbi Simon Jacobson’s http://www.meaningfullife.com/ with some new comments marked “Ish Tam”.

Hope you and the author will forgive me the audacity and may be even find some of the comments useful 🙂

PDF version of the complete guide, all 49 days, can be found here.

Rabbi Simon Jacobson:

We live in a world that has increasingly embraced the inalienable right of every person to be free. It would seem that we are more free than we’ve ever been, conquering time and space with the World Wide Web, palm pilots, and digital do-it-all pens. But for all this prosperity and high tech, are you more free of your inner demons and scars, of oppressive employers or pressures? Are you more free in your relationships, free of jealousy, anger or substance abuse?

The reality is we are all slaves to something – to work, or a relationship, to fear, or food, to a lack of discipline, or too much discipline, to love, or a lack of love. The word Mitzrayim (‘Egypt’ in Hebrew) means limitations and boundaries and represents all forms of constraints that inhibit our true free expression. The Jewish people’s redemption from Egypt teaches us how to achieve inner freedom in our lives. After leaving Egypt the people had to traverse the desert for 49 days until they were ready to reach the purpose of their Exodus – receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. This 49-day process is the key to true freedom. Enslavement is a habit that needs to be broken and transformed over an extended period of time – a time that is refining and healing.

With the mitzvah of counting the forty-nine days known as Sefirat Ha’Omer, the Torah invites us on a journey into the human psyche, into the soul. There are seven basic emotions that make up the spectrum of human experience. At the root of all forms of enslavement, is a distortion of these emotions. Each of the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot is dedicated to examining and refining one of them.

The seven emotional attributes are:
1.      Chesed – Lovingkindness;
2.      Gevurah – Justice and discipline;
3.      Tiferet – Harmony, compassion;
4.      Netzach – Endurance;
5.      Hod – Humility;
6.      Yesod – Bonding;
7.      Malchut – Sovereignty, leadership.

The seven weeks, which represent these emotional attributes, further divide into seven days making up the 49 days of the counting. Since a fully functional emotion is multidimensional, it includes within itself a blend of all seven attributes. Thus, the counting of the first week, which begins on the second night of Pesach, as well as consisting of the actual counting (“Today is day one of the Omer..”) would consist of the following structure with suggested meditations:


Day 1 ― Chesed of Chesed: Loving-kindness in Loving-kindness

Love is the single most powerful and necessary component in life. It is both giving and receiving. Love allows us to reach above and beyond ourselves, to experience another person and to allow that person to experience us. It is the tool by which we learn to experience the highest reality ― God. Examine the love aspect of your love.

Ask yourself: What is my capacity to love another person? Do I have problems with giving? Am I stingy or selfish? Is it difficult for me to let someone else into my life? Am I afraid of my vulnerability, of opening up and getting hurt?

Exercise for the day: Find a new way to express your love to a dear one.

Day 2 ― Gevurah of Chesed: Discipline in Loving-kindness

Healthy love must always include an element of discipline and discernment; a degree of distance and respect for another’s boundaries; an assessment of another’s capacity to contain your love. Love must be tempered and directed properly. Ask a parent who, in the name of love, has spoiled a child; or someone who suffocates a spouse with love and doesn’t allow them any personal space.

Exercise for the day: Help someone on their terms not on yours. Apply yourself to their specific needs even if it takes effort.

Day 3 ― Tiferet of Chesed: Compassion, Harmony in Loving-kindness

Harmony in love is one that blends both the chesed and gevurah aspects of love. Harmonized love includes empathy and compassion. Love is often given with the expectation of receiving love in return. Compassionate love is given freely; expects nothing in return ― even when the other doesn’t deserve love. Tiferet is giving also to those who have hurt you.

Exercise for the day: Offer a helping hand to a stranger.

Day 4 ― Netzach of Chesed: Endurance in Loving-kindness

Is my love enduring? Does it withstand challenges and setbacks? Do I give and withhold love according to my moods or is it constant regardless of the ups and downs of life?

Exercise for the day: Reassure a loved one of the constancy of your love

Day 5 ― Hod of Chesed: Humility in Loving-kindness

You can often get locked in love and be unable to forgive your beloved or to bend or compromise your position. Hod introduces the aspect of humility in love; the ability to rise above yourself and forgive or give in to the one you love just for the sake of love even if you’re convinced that you’re right. Arrogant love is not love.

Exercise for the day: Swallow your pride and reconcile with a loved one with whom you have quarreled.

Day 6 ― Yesod of Chesed: Bonding in Loving-kindness

For love to be eternal it requires bonding. A sense of togetherness which actualizes the love in a joint effort. An intimate connection, kinship and attachment, benefiting both parties. This bonding bears fruit; the fruit born out of a healthy union.

Exercise for the day: Start building something constructive together with a loved one

Day 7 ― Malchut of Chesed: Nobility in Loving-kindness

Mature love comes with ― and brings ― personal dignity. An intimate feeling of nobility and regality. Knowing your special place and contribution in this world. Any love that is debilitating and breaks the human spirit is no love at all. For love to be complete it must have the dimension of personal sovereignty.

Exercise for the day: Highlight an aspect of your love that has bolstered your spirit and enriched your life…and celebrate.

Ish Tam: Malchut – the seventh day completing the week of the Sefira is more than just an attribute of nobility – it completes and brings together the entire week of Omer. Similar to how the Shabbat completes and crowns the week, the day of Malchut (also Shabbat in 2015 and 2016) allows us to elevate and purify other days.

Exercise for completing the Week 1: Choose the mitzvah that brings you the feeling of most accomplishment and do it with the intention of elevating all previous days of the Chesed week. It can be tefila, tehillim, Torah learning, act of chesed, any mitzvah that brings maximum kedusha into your life.

PDF version of the complete guide can be found here.

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