The Counting of the Omer is truly inner work. We can’t just say each number and then move on. The kabbalists who declared the need for this counting, every day between Pesach and Shavuot, were asking every person who follows the Judaic path, to reach within for a deeper comprehension of who we really are.
It’s so important to realize who we are at a time like this. When we’re being questioned by so many in the world who ask us why we are Jews, and why do we need Israel, we have to know who we really are. This is not just a personal inquiry—this is also a question for us to understand why the nation of Israel needs to exist. Why, indeed are we here? What, in fact, are we trying to accomplish?
When we learn how to answer these deep questions with clarity, we’ll know how to move forward in a safe, enlightened direction.
To be sure, there are many practical reasons for Israel to exist. When we know that throughout the 2,000 years of exile, when Jews were forced out, so many times, from a country they were in, and had to search for another place to live, a homeland can give us a safe haven. And we know that we can find great comfort just by being observant in Judaism, even if we simply follow the laws without always knowing why they were given.
But this is not enough to explain why we insist on staying in the Middle East, surrounded by countries, with terrorists in their midst, who clearly don’t want us there. We need to know that much more is being demanded of us than simply creating a state so that we can live under our own authority, like every other country.
We Jews are part of a much more awesome story. When we were told that we were to be the “light to the nations,” it wasn’t just to enhance life for everyone in the world on a material level. We can see that even though many in Israel are inventing and creating wonderful solutions for problems in the material world, anti-semitism still exists.
No. We were given teachings that can lift us up above the usual, earthly way of living life, so that we can reach a higher, clearer, much more awesome way of experiencing our lives. This is why the kabbalists set up most of our prayers and holiday rituals, teaching us that we have to rise above the way the world thinks. They say we have to rise “above reason.” This means we have to learn how to see the world from God’s perspective.
The way to do this is to learn how to tune into the inner depths of our soul, as we’re required to do when we count in the way the kabbalists designed for us. We have to reach for the inner part of us that is already connected to the higher, divine wisdom of the universe, and then take the time to patiently listen for the loving words that you can only hear when you sit for a while in absolute silence.
It’s only when we expand our realization that we each carry within us the loving support of the higher consciousness of the universe, that we’ll understand the need to develop our ability to live in harmony with its wisdom. And it helps to know the structure of our own soul, by learning about the seven sephirot of our emotions.
So we can’t just count. If that’s all you’re doing every day, even with the bracha (blessing), just stop and think of what you’re really being asked to do. Remember: you wouldn’t have been given this profound task if you weren’t going to be helped to do it on a deep, awesome level.