Omer 49: Spiritual Freedom

Omer 49: Spiritual Freedom

Day 49: Shechinah she’b’Shechinah, Presence Within Presence

Black and white photo of a young woman with a hat and a mischievous grin sitting on a chair with no bottom illustrating a post about shechinah

Today’s post ought to be the Omer season’s grand finale. After all, the Zohar says, the spiritual task this season is to connect with Shechinah.

So I shall try to say something grand. Something final that also points to a new beginning.

This morning, as I sang Shacharit prayers, I tried to feel into today’s Omer quality. Presence within Presence. I felt my spine, tall and sturdy. My breath, easily flowing. My voice clear. And my mood light. I was focused, but in a diffuse sort of way. Aware of my body, the air around it, the room’s soft light, a sense of quiet joy.

Then, my mind wandered to another meaning of Shechinah. A feminine face of God. Shechinah she’b’Shechinah. A feminine face of God within another feminine face of God. And I thought about how many feminine faces of God there might be! Even the word “feminine” holds so many meanings.

There is so much to discover about God! If only we are willing!

Is Shechinah a Radical Idea?

A few years ago, Kabbalah scholar Danny Matt spoke at VST. (That’s my workplace.) He said “Of course the early Kabbalists spoke in metaphor! Look at the radical things they were saying. Like, God is a woman!!” Things, he said, that didn’t land then as easily as they do now.

But today I peeked at Twitter. I get a lot of religious discourse of all kinds on my feed. Including plenty of nonsense about how God in the Bible is always described as male—usually from biblical “scholars” who clearly never read Isaiah.

Today, I even saw a post from a Jewish agitator calling everyone to boycott Sefaria, the online Jewish library, because it carries one section of The JPS Tanakh: Gender-Sensitive Edition. This new translation uses “God” as the pronoun for God. Probably a better choice than a pronoun suggesting God has a male body!

But, for some people today, this translation choice doesn’t land easily. Clearly, in some circles, it is radical to talk about the divine feminine. Or even to avoid talk about the divine masculine!

So I realized: how precious is the spiritual freedom I take for granted! To ask questions about what texts and teachings really mean. Trust my own thoughts and feelings for answers. Listen as dreams speak deeper truths. Invent my own spiritual practices. Discover new dimensions of Spirit in daily life.

What a seven week journey through the Omer it has been! We have taken spiritual practice into our own hands. Discovered for ourselves what our religion means. Explored our own vocabulary for the sacred.

It’s only the beginning! And so, as they say, see you at Sinai!

Questions about the last 49 days

What have you learned—about yourself, Judaism, spirituality? Has your feeling of spiritual presence shifted? Did you explore any spiritual practices you would like to continue? Do you imagine or experience God differently?

New to the Omer? Here’s a guide to the theory and practice.

Image: An old photo I took of my high school friend Susi Korda. This is the photo I refer to on Omer Day 49 in Shechinah, Bring Me Home.

  1. Thank you so very much Reb Laura for this outstanding finale to a most enlightenment Omer series. May HaShechinah continue to bless you in all that you do!

    1. Thank you Mike for this note and for all you do. May the Shechinah and the KB”H and all the attributes together bless the work of your heart, mind, and hands.

  2. Thank you, Reb Laura, for a beautiful, inspiring seven weeks. I love Counting Omer and your reflections here and in your book added to my experience this year. Chag Sameach!

    1. Thank you so much, Anne, for this delightful message. Chag sameach and many blessings to you!

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