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A Time For Healing

04/28/2017 11:14:36 AM


The other day a friend shared with me that he attended a class on the topic of Sefirat Haomer. The teacher was discussing the correlation between the 49 days of counting and the 49 Sefirot, which is described extensively in Kabbalistic teachings. But he walked away feeling that he hadn’t gained much from the class. In his words, “it was very esoteric, and I really couldn’t relate to anything being taught.”

We have a tradition that all of Jewish wisdom, and any teaching from the Torah, ought to have a relevant and useful application. And the same goes with even the most abstract and metaphysical teachings of the Kabbalah. Gaining insight into any Torah and Divine wisdom is simply learning about ‘G-d’s persona’, which is really a lesson about the creative forces of us and our world.

The doctrine of the Sefirot is one of the central teachings of the Kabbalah. Simply put, the Sefirot are a description about the character of G-d and about the ways through which He functions. As humans, we were created in the image of G-d, and our soul also contains these 49 Sefirot characteristics. Thus, by learning about them we can understand more about ourselves.

We recently celebrated Pesach, which celebrated our miraculous exodus from slavery in Egypt. The next major festival is Shavuot, which will celebrate the wondrous event of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. During this time, we are typically very focused upon the many miraculous events in our history, and are excitedly giving gratitude to G-d for His salvation. But we tend to overlook another part of the story, one that is key and central to the entire process.

What occurred to the Jewish people between Pesach and Shavuot? Just imagine a nation, one which was possibly fifth generation (or more) slaves, suddenly being released. And upon their release they are told, “You will be G-d’s children; you will be the moral leaders of the world; you will be the recipients of the Torah which will be the manual through which you will learn how to perfect the world; you will be responsible to teach all others how to live a moral life.”

Think about it this way: Imagine you’ve been through several heartbreaking crises. (I hope this is something you only need to imagine, though sadly it’s quite possible that you can truly relate.) Perhaps you’ve experienced a broken relationship, or lost a job, or suffered an illness, or been through a depression. And just as you’re beginning to step out of the rut, you’re tasked with accomplishing something monumental. How would you feel? How would you react?

The natural response would be one of despondency. You might say, “Hey, thanks for the offer, but I’m really not up for the task. I doubt that I’m even capable of accomplishing anything like that. I’ve got a lot on my plate, I’ve been through a lot of trauma, I feel emotionally scarred, and I just need some privacy and time to heal.”

One would assume that this may have been how many members of the battered Jewish people felt as well. They were just beginning to breathe their first breaths of freedom and dignity. Throughout their entire lives they were tortured and persecuted by the Egyptians. They probably had very little trust in others, let alone any belief in themselves that they could possibly live mindful and purposeful lives.

So, the period between their exodus from Egypt and their arrival at Mount Sinai, which lasted 49 days, was a time for healing. A time for the Jews to reflect and unwind; a time to learn who they really are, how to regain their innocence and self-worth, how to forgive and how to forget. For in just 49 days’ time, they were about to experience a complete transformation, which would set them on a course that would require them to be filled with confidence, pride, commitment and ambition.

It is no coincidence that the bulk of the Omer counting occurs during the Jewish month of Iyar. Kabbalists teach that the letters of Iyar, spelled אייר, stand for the Torah verse אני ה' רופאיך, which means “I am the L-rd your G-d.” G-d’s healing is very different that the healing from mankind, and this month is most propitious for G-d’s assistance in our efforts.

The 49 Sefirot are the Jewish classification of the psychology of the soul. They outline the traits of the mind and the heart. When we learn about them, we are literally learning about the very makeup of our persona. And it is impossible to heal an ailment that you cannot diagnose. How can you fix a negative trait, like anger or impatience or greed, when you don’t understand how and why you suffer from them? So it is very important to learn about these Sefirot, and in a very thorough and relevant way, so that we can sum-up ourselves and begin to work on our healing and improvement of character.

I will share with you one sample of the ‘Sefirotic-psychology’:

The first day of the Omer is the time to review the trait ‘chessed-sheb’chessed’ – ‘chessed within chessed’. We often translate chessed as kindness. But as a Sefirotic or psychological paradigm, chessed denotes a disposition of openness. When your mind or heart or hands are open, you are in a state of chessed. When you are closed, you are in a state of gevurah. An open heart tends to lead to a giving hand. The openness will attract others into our lives, and allow us to see their needs. But there are many forms of giving, and many different motivations behind one’s giving. Some people give to others to gain control over them, or with the expectation for something in return. Chessed within Chessed reminds us that when we give, we ought to do so kindly, gracefully and wholeheartedly.

This is a very powerful teaching to which we can all relate. Imagine what might happen to you if you could learn 48 more of these?

Hopefully I will have the chance to follow up with more Omer teachings.

Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782