Making the Omer Count by Aviva Meshwork
Sharon Tirabassi cashed in a check to the tune of over $10,000,000 courtesy of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. several years ago. She went from rags to riches overnight and as such, became the proud owner of a huge house where she parked her fancy cars and entertained her many guests. She shopped for and donned designer clothes and became a globe trotting jet setter to exotic destinations. Ten years later, after all the handouts she generously gave, heavy expenses and lavish living, Sharon Tirabassi had spent it all and found herself back on the bus to her part-time job so she could afford to pay the rent on her (much) smaller home. This is a classic story of going from rags to riches to rags again. How does this happen?
I have no concrete answers as to how this happens to someone since such a thing has not happened to me (the only thing I have ever won is a goldfish after bobbing for apples at my local community center), but I do have a theory. Sharon, and the many unsuccessful lottery winners like her, were not prepared for such a windfall and simply did not have the tools to deal with it. According to my theory, had Sharon been given the money over time together with the right direction and guidance perhaps she and her children would be in a financially stable condition today. Maybe if Sharon was ready to handle going from rags to riches she wouldn’t be back at the beginning, in rags again. Just a theory.
For those of you who are laughing and thinking, ‘this “tragedy” should only happen to me,’ take a moment to think about it. If you were given something before you were ready to accept it, would you be any better off than Sharon? There is something quite significant to be said about being properly prepared (as much as one can be prepared) for the next big thing. Each time I find out I am pregnant, I freak out a bit inside and then once I gain composure, I thank G-d that I have nine whole months to get my head around having another child, and in a way I mentally prepare myself for what’s ahead. Oh boy (or girl)!
The Jewish people just gathered ourselves around our Passover tables and once again related the infamous story of our Exodus from Egypt which marked the end of a bitter 210 year period of slavery to the wickedly corrupt, brutal and perverse Egyptians. During that time, the Israelites lived amongst the worst of the worst that humankind has ever had to offer and much of the Egyptian immorality rubbed off on many of them. In fact, our sources tell us that the Israelites had sunk to the 49th level of impurity (level 50 being the lowest of the low) and had they gone that one level deeper, there could have been no salvation for them. Their spiritual, mental, physical and emotional state had sadly taken a huge hit in Egypt (rags) and they were in need of extraordinary intervention to pull themselves back up. And that is exactly what they got. At the end of a 50-day period after having left Egypt they received the Divine salvation of the Torah at Mount Sinai (riches!)
The significance of such a gift is immeasurable. To be the ones to receive the ultimate Guide Book to Life written by the Creator is astounding and impossible to articulate in words. Whether one recognizes it or not (yet), having been given the Torah is the definitive windfall, especially after having sunk so low.
But they weren’t ready to receive it right away, straight after having left Egypt. They needed to be better equipped in order to properly accept such a Divine, Supernatural gift.
50 days later…
“According to Jewish tradition, the natural world is predicated on systems of seven. In time, there are seven days of the week. In space, a central point can expand in six opposite directions: right and left, up and down, forward and backward, the point itself being the central theme around which all is situated.”
-Rabbi Doniel Baron.
From this, we see that seven signifies the natural world, the world of the limited. Our sources tell us that eight is in the realm of the supernatural as it is the next number after seven; thereby representing that which is beyond nature. Interestingly, the Israelites only received the Torah one day after the completion of a seven-week period, at the end of the 50th day from their departure from Egypt. Seven times itself brings us to 49, the limit of what we can expect from the number 7. 50, being one number beyond 49, therefore also brings us from the natural to the supernatural- to beyond that which is limited to the unlimited. Therefore the number 50 in Judaism has a transcendental quality to it and the 50-day period after leaving Egypt was not just time hanging out in the desert, but rather a necessary period of time whereby transcendence was taking place. This process one goes through towards attaining ‘perfection’ was what the Israelites needed in order to prepare themselves for their Ultimate Supernatural gift.
Shortly we will be celebrating Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is celebrated on the 50th day after the beginning of Passover. The 50-day period between Passover and Shavuot is called the Omer-and we are in it right now. Transcendence is in the air again and if capitalized upon, these days of the Omer can spearhead our growth; potentially elevating us to our next level(s) in time for our re-acceptance and re-dedication to Torah.
Shavuot is so significant a holiday and commemoration for us that it would be inappropriate for us to go into it without properly readying ourselves for it first. In fact, each of the seven weeks of the Omer has ‘themes’ that focus and direct our spiritual and personal growth so that we can attempt to achieve success in our personal growth endeavors. They are as follows:
Week 1- Chesed (loving kindness)
Week 2- Gevurah (strength- discipline)
Week 3- Tiferet (harmony/splendor)
Week 4- Netzach (endurance)
Week 5- Hod (humility)
Week 6-Yesod (Pillar- foundation)
Week 7- Malchut (Kingship)
Of course, all of these themes are expounded upon in various other sources but the idea for us is to see that these themes are actually essential steps towards the process of growth- to take us from our current level to the next one.
Let’s make these weeks of the Omer count so that we can be ‘dressed’ in our finery when we accept and celebrate our spiritual riches on Shavuot.
Aviva Meshwork is an educator, writer, and Trip Director for the JWRP. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Israel with her husband and four children.