Linking together the harvest festivals of Passover and Shavuot is the seven-week period of Sefirat Ha’Omer (Counting the Omer).
In the Jewish mystical tradition, each day of the Omer period represents a combination of qualities, drawing from the seven lower sefirot of the Tree of Life:
- CHESED (Boundless Lovingkindness)
- GEVURAH (Focussed Strength, Restraint)
- TIFERET (Beauty, Harmony, Compassion)
- NETZACH (Endurance, Perseverance)
- HOD (Humility, Splendor, Awe)
- YESOD (Bonding, Foundation)
- MALCHUT (Majesty, Divinity)
Another model draws from the Hebrew Aboriginal Medicine Wheel and uses the seven directions:
- SOUTH (Inner Clarity, Essential/Self)
- NORTH (Vision, Mystery)
- EAST (Balance)
- ABOVE (Essential/Universal)
- BELOW (Rootedness)
- WEST (Blending)
- CENTER (Fullness)
In both traditions, each of these qualities correlates with each week of the Omer period, as well as with each day of the week. In this way, there are 49 different combinations of qualities over the seven-week Omer period, offering great encouragement for deep personal introspection and exploration. (See Omer Calendar for this year, 5776/2016)
In Hebrew, ‘hiddur’ means to make beautiful and there is a longstanding tradition of hiddur mitzvah (beautifying a mitzvah) going beyond what is required to perform a mitzvah by infusing our spiritual practice with beauty. Embellishing and adorning ritual objects (such as challah coverings, kiddish cups, seder plates, menorahs, etc.) can enhance and beautify our experience of ritual, and beauty itself then takes on a spiritual dimension.
Omer Harvest is my offering to celebrate the practice of Hiddur Sefirat Ha’Omer–beautifying the counting of the Omer!
Over the last years, there has been growing interest in exploring creative ways to count the Omer. In addition to many new insightful books and comprehensive guides, people have been using beads, painting, quilting, poetry, chanting, yoga and so much more to fully embody and beautify their journeys through the Omer period.
It is my hope that Omer Harvest will offer support, encouragement and inspiration to individuals and communities drawn to explore new ways of embodying and beautifying the practice of Counting the Omer. I can’t wait to see your artistic offerings and to include them in our Omer Harvest!
With great anticipation,
Yael Raff Peskin – Omer Calendar 5776