SePHiRat HaOmer: a little spiritual practice to keep us Jews connected during the seven long weeks between Pesach and Shavuot.
In ancient Biblical times, a public ritual of counting the measure of the ripening spring grain.
In contemporary Kabbalistic times, taking a personal measure of the ten SePHiRot.
What does the Kabbalistic concept of “SePHiRot” mean? There’s no simple answer. The Hebrew word hints at:
SPHeRes. Regions on a map of the universe, as drawn by ancient philosophers.
miSPaRim. Hebrew for “numbers,” organized into a mathematical model of reality.
SiPPuRim. Hebrew for “stories” that show us how to navigate our world.
SePHaRim. Hebrew for “books” teaching us how to read our existence.
SaPPHiRes. Multifaceted gems, refracting light into its parts.
Sephirot, it seems, are the building blocks of reality.
If we grasp the nature of these elements, we understand reality. That’s the hope.
But real life only shows us the elements in combination. So, our conception of the elements follows our theory of the whole.
Is the universe is made of Divine energy? If so, sephirot are names of God.
Is that energy best described as light? Sephirot are colours of the rainbow.
Or as vibration? Sephirot are elemental sounds.
Or as consciousness? Sephirot are attitudes of spiritual consciousness.
During Sephirat Ha’Omer, we meditate on a different sephirah each week. On its expression of God, light, sound, and consciousness.
Week One begins at sundown Tuesday April 11 and ends at sundown Tuesday April 18.
Week One is the week of chesed. The week to contemplate God as El, the color white, the vowel sound ehh, and the spiritual quality of love.*
El is a universal God. Traces of El are expressed in all religions, present in all natural phenomena.The first character in the Torah to call God El is the mysterious priest Melchizedek (Gen, 14:22). God, says Melchizedek, is El Elyon, Koneh Shamayim Va’aretz. Ultimate God, Creator/Owner/Shelterer of Earth and Heaven.
Look this week, for traces of El. Do you see El in acts of inter-religious friendship? In the “spiritual not religious movement”? In the impulse to walk outdoors instead of attend synagogue?
White reminds me of snow and clouds. It is the colour of water, of deep quiet, of high mountains and blindingly bright light. A colour whose purity can be attained only through grace. When do I yearn for such purity? How do I imagine it will heal me?
The sound “ehh” carries breath through the word chesed. When do you breathe out the sound “ehh”? For you, is it a sound of determination or resignation? What words animated with “ehh” come to mind? Do they cluster around a theme? Can you arrange them in a whimsical rhyme?
And the quality of love — it’s like a rainbow in itself. Or perhaps a white light of integrated qualities. Think about it: Love relies on the power of all seven sephirot of the Omer: Kindness. Boundaries. Compassion. Endurance. Gratitude. Reliability. Presence.
How do those seven qualities challenge you in love? How do they support you?
And if you care to share any answers, please feel free to comment.
*These interpretations of the Sephirah riff off the following sources: Names of God: Joseph Gikatilla. Colours: George Robinson. Vowel sounds: David Cooper. Spiritual qualities: Moses Cordovero.