Passover commentary and the counting of the Omer

This week, we study in memory of those killed this week at the Kansas City Jewish Community Center, 14-year-old Life Scout Reat Underwood, his grandfather Dr. William Corporon, and Terri LaManno.  Our d’var comes from our frequent contributor, Jordan Block.

Dear Scouts:

I hope everyone had a wonderful seder (or two) and is continuing to enjoy Pesach. The second day of Pesach begins a 49 day period that leads to Shavuos called Sefiras Ha’Omer –the Counting of the Barley. It’s named for a special offering of barley we used to bring in the Temple.

When God wants us to do something, there’s a three part process: (1) God demonstrates what we are to do. (2) God instructs us how to do it. (3) We do it.

(Try this! Next time you’re giving instructions, use this same process, and see how it goes.)

Two things happened to us in Egypt: God (1) took us out of slavery and (2) cleansed us of spiritual corruption. Really though, when God does two things at once, they’re both different aspects of one thing. As long as we were influenced by the evil practices and attitudes of Ancient Egypt, we would not have the freedom of body or mind to express our true selves. You might have had a similar experience of doing something out of anger or frustration that you later wish you hadn’t.

On Pesach – not just the first Pesach but every Pesach – God takes us out of spiritual slavery/corruption, and it’s the easiest time to be who we really are and surpass our own flaws. After God demonstrates how to become free on Pesach, we take instructions from the Torah to do it ourselves during these days of Sefiras Ha’Omer.

Everything in the world is made of 7 spiritual components. Our bodies, our minds, our souls, and even these 7 components are made of 7 components – a total of 49. Since we’re supposed to be cleaning these things during the Omer, it should be no surprise that the Omer has 7 weeks, and the weeks are made of 7 days – again, a total of 49. These components are as follows:

Chesed – Outpouring/Growing/Making More: Giving a gift, speaking, and even moving around are examples of Chesed. Rain is a Chesed from God.

Gevurah – Withholding/Stopping/Staying the Same: Accepting a gift, holding something, remaining silent, and staying still are examples of Gevurah. Rain ending is a Gevurah from God.

Tiferes – Harmony/Balance/Beauty: Tiferes is Chesed combined with Gevurah. Helping a sibling with homework (Chesed by speaking) and then leaving him or her alone to finish (Gevurah by stopping speaking) is an example of Tiferes. Too much rain is a Chesed from God that causes a flood. Too little rain is a Gevurah that causes a drought. A rain that nourishes and then stops before it does harm is Tiferes.

NetzachChesed in the Future: Giving someone candy is Chesed. Buying or saving the candy in the first place was Netzach. When you got the candy, it hadn’t helped anyone yet, but if you hadn’t done it, you couldn’t have given that candy later. Evaporation is a Netzach from God. It leads to rain.

HodGevurah in the Future: Not jumping all over the classroom is Gevurah. Running, jumping, playing a sport, and screaming your head off during recess is Hod. You do the Chesed of moving and physically acting in the world so that your body will be satisfied and not restless. The wind is a Hod from God. It moves the rainclouds so that there is not too much rain in one spot.

YesodTiferes in the Future: Learning arithmetic was an act of Netzach because it allows you to help your little brother or sister. When you ask what he or she is working on, that’s Hod because it allows you to focus on addition and subtraction rather than multiplication and division. Organizing your thoughts in order to help with homework without being distracting or overwhelming is Yesod. Pretty complicated, right? God made the Earth a certain size, with a certain amount of land and water, with the Moon a certain size and distance from Earth all so that there would be a delicate balance that produces a good amount of rain and keeps us not too hot and not too cold, and THAT was Yesod.

Malchus – Inspiration: All these things we discussed so far are done entirely by you. They are actions that start in your mind and end when you use your body or mouth. An action of yours that ends with someone else’s body or mouth is Malchus. If a friend of yours stays to clean up the classroom because you stayed to clean up the classroom, that’s Malchus. Reminding your sibling to tell someone “thank you” is Malchus. Getting your sibling to figure out the price of the rope and pickaxe in Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna (from Frozen), is most definitely Malchus.

During Sefira, we work on one of these 7 traits each of the 7 weeks. On top of that, each day of each week is a time to work on a trait inside a trait. Week 1 is Chesed. Day 2 of week 1 is Gevurah in Chesed, so you’d work on limiting as a gift. Being quiet (Gevurah) to give someone peace and quiet (Chesed) is an easy example. The other way around, day 1 of week 2, is Chesed in Gevurah. Telling (Chesed) someone to stop something (Gevurah) would be an example. Our earlier example of Netzach is a Gevurah (buying/getting) in Netzach (giving later). You can use this future candy (Netzach) to make someone else excited (Chesed by speaking). That’s Netzach in Chesed. If you get candy to eat (Hod), but you plan to eat it if you do well on a project (Netzach), that’s Hod in Netzach.

Don’t worry. There’s plenty of time each day to figure these out. If you don’t get it precisely right, it’s no big deal. The point is to do your best. Work hard and be creative!


© 2014 Nelson R. Block