Counting the Omer: Day 16

This Shabbat corresponds to the 16th day of the counting of the Omer (to learn more about this practice, click here) where we are Called to integrate Gevurah (strength/discipline/courage) with Tifereth (beauty/compassion/balance). The first way to do this is simply pause in meditation and reflection: rather than wonder what the rabbis meant by this, let us instead reflect- what does this meant to us?

All the rituals and teachings in the world are simply guidelines for our own work. Our Soul (that speaks to us through our gut/heart/conscience and dreams) is the ultimate Source of Torah/Wisdom. When we try to shut ourselves down to attempt to align with outside truth or authority, we not miss the mark. Religion can easily become idolatry when it leads us away from Self.

The ultimate goal of the counting of the Omer is to do what we can to keep religion from becoming idolatry. Each day is about helping us to align our inner world with the spiritual properties of the way the Divine shines through us and into this world. The Kabbalistic tree of life is a metaphor for so much- including the need to find equilibrium: within ourselves and within the Universe.

This is why we first step to preparing for revelation (the celebration of Shavuot) is liberating ourselves from the ways we internalized slavery. We left Ancient Egypt over Passover, but the journey to freedom is much longer. Similarly, we can leave any abusive or unhealthy situation, but unless we do the inner work, we will recreate a variation of the same dynamic. True freedom takes work.

In the same way as a therapist can’t just tell someone what to do (leave this job/relationship/situation or quit doing X addictive behavior), so did G!d understand that we needed time to heal from the ways we had internalized the oppression. This is how oppression works: we internalize it to try to stay safe by learning what we think we need to do to avoid getting hurt. We become our own worst enemies at times… in theory as a survival strategy… but one that ceases to serve its function when we finally get to physically leave the trauma that we were trying to survive.

The goal was (and indeed, the goal has always been and continues to be) to leave behind the intergenerational trauma that has always been the misfortune of the Children of Israel- BEFORE arriving into the promised land. The goal of our spiritual practices has always been to liberate us. Unfortunately, religion has often been used as a strategy to oppress, and the world we live in is filled with examples of this. Consequently, the first task for any person of faith must be to unlearn what we were taught- about G!d, about faith, about ourselves.

The Torah was not given to us immediately after leaving Ancient Egypt. We have to redeem every part of ourselves, and the counting of the Omer is this inner work. The first and most important way this happens is by training ourselves to create time for inner reflection and spiritual healing. Meditation/prayer/mindfulness/yoga… these are just a few of the ways we can live a life of intentionality… becoming like the Hebrew letter “vav” in G!d’s Name… connecting heaven and earth.

There are many ways to reflect upon the implications of today’s spiritual task: integrate Gevurah with Tifereth, and our deepest knowing can guide us in determining what our Soul and unconscious most need, so that we can accomplish the true goal of the counting of the Omer: working through our “stuff” (old tapes/unconscious expectations/wounds/fears/shame/resentment etc)… when we have done the inner work, then G!d’s Light will shine brightly through us and into this world. Like the circuit that does not allow electric current to flow until it is internally connected, the work of revelation is internal.

Once we begin to connect with our inner knowing, and integrate the gut knowing with the heart knowing with the brain knowing… then we are Called to integrate this with every other aspect of our lives. Espoused theology must be aligned with operational theology. If we ever find ourselves saying to someone else- do what I say, not what I do… this is our first warning bell.

Today is the day that the universe has set aside for us to reflect upon the integration of Gevurah and Tifereth: strength and harmony. One way of doing this is to also think about how Gevurah manifests as authority figures and powerful voices… how does this impact our inner equilibrium (Tifereth) and ability to connect with ourselves. Whose voices have we internalized that get in the way of our being able to be fully open? What will we do today to work on liberating ourselves from this?

May this Shabbat bring deep healing to us all… that we may bring deep healing to this world.