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Shabbat to Shabbat: Counting the Omer

04/13/2017 04:42:04 PM


Rabbi Samantha Shabman

By now, we are in the trenches of our Matzah eating week. Personally, I am longing for Wonder Bread.

Wonder Bread reminds me of sleep away camp. Aside from slathering my bread with butter and 7 packets of sugar, I would also squash the bread into a big ball and eat it like an apple. Bread puffs up, its fluffy, there is air in it.

However, with Matzah we cannot do this. It’s plain and brittle. There’s no stuff added, no extra emotions or anything else that can puff it up. According to the Zohar (the foundational work for Kabbalah), Matzah is a healing food.  While it is not great for digestion, it is great for spiritual healing. Matzah brings us back to purity. It brings us back to a simpler time, before life got more complicated, and “puffed up” with the creation of Wonder Bread and the likes.

The sages teach us that the complicated, puffed up nature of chametz represents the character trait of arrogance. While the flat Matzah represents humility. Aaccording to our sages, humility is the beginning of our freedom, and the groundwork of our spiritual growth.  As we eat matzah this Passover season may we ingest the quality of humility as the center piece of our faith. And by abstaining from chametz we get rid of any arrogance or conceit that we may possess.

This time in our Jewish calendar provides us with another opportunity for spiritual and emotional healing: the counting of the Omer.

The period of the Omer signals the time between two crucial occurrences in Jewish history. Passover celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Shavuot celebrates the moment when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai. The Omer symbolizes the 40 years of wandering that we needed in order to go from freedom to revelation. The counting of the Omer is a time for renewal, just as the Israelites wandered for 40 years to renew themselves and prepare themselves to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai.

I invite you to try out this ancient Jewish practice, who knows what might happen! And I welcome you to use this spectacular Omer guide from Central Synagogue as a resource:   Each night, we say


Praised be You, Adonai our God, who rules the universe, instilling within us the holiness of mitzvoth by commanding us to count the Omer.  

This Passover season, my wish is that we are able to step out of the narrow places, Mitzrayim, Egypt and into the wide open! Chag Sameach!

Tue, August 4 2020 14 Av 5780