For the past seven weeks, I have been on a journey of personal and spiritual growth. At least I hope I have had some growth. Why seven weeks? There are seven weeks between Passover, the holiday that commemorates when the children of Israel left Egypt 3,331 years ago, to Shavuot, the day they received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Why didn't they receive the Torah at the same time they left Egypt? Because they weren't ready to receive it yet. Even with the miracles of the plagues, they still thought of themselves as slaves and they followed many of the Egyptian practices of the times. During their journey to Mount Sinai, they were transformed physically and spiritually from a nation of slaves to a free people, ready to serve their G-d.
Centuries later, we follow the commandment from Leviticus 23:15-16 (https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9924/jewish/Chapter-23.htm#v15) to count these days and say prayers in place of the sacrifices that were done during biblical times. We call this the counting of the Omer, and as with all our spiritual rituals, we have a specific set of instructions on what to do each day (see Sefirat HaOmer https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/130631/jewish/Sefirat-HaOmer.htm).
In addition to counting each day with a blessing, we focus on an aspect of personal and spiritual development. What happens if we miss counting a day? We count it the following day, but without a blessing, which renders the moment of counting a little less meaningful for me. It is also a reminder of how easy it is for me to get sidetracked from spiritual pursuits, and forget to do a little something extra that only takes five minutes at the end of my day. I suspect my forgetfulness has something to do with my animal soul trying to keep my G-dly soul securely grounded in the physical world (see my last article Struggle with prayer highlights war within us https://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/blogs/spiritually-speaking/struggle-with-prayer-highlights-war-within-us-1.23849441).
To help me stay on track with my faith this year I had some help from technology: an Omer Counter app for my tablet (https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4370420/jewish/Omer-Tools.htm) I set the app to notify me when it was time to do the counting. All I had to remember was to look at my tablet sometime around or after sundown. I must admit I still missed a few days, but I counted more than previous years and I'm determined to do better next year.
The good news for me is that I don't have to wait until next year to continue improving myself personally and spiritually. In addition to the Hebrew blessings and prayers, the app includes daily meditations in English. The meditations offer wisdom from The Rebbe, translated and condensed by Rabby Tzvi Freeman. Though they were paired with each day of the Omer, I may use these meditations throughout the year to help me continue to grow in a positive way.
In a time when it is difficult for us to tell truth from lies, and when we often do not know what we can do to stem the tide of negativity and frustration that seems to surround us, there are gentle souls who use technology to remind us that G-d is in control. I end this post with this meditation from day 36 which was particularly meaningful for me:
The world around you is in shambles—and you are probably no exception. The chasm between what you should be and what you actually are is so vast, you cannot see yourself changing anything. That's His job. Your job is to think good thoughts. Your job is to do good deeds. G-d will make a bridge from your thoughts to your deeds and together they will become the most powerful instrument of change in the world.
You can find this meditation and more HERE
Fiona Prince, MA is a coach, facilitator and teacher who provides fundamental communication and writing skills to help people succeed in their professional and academic lives. She worships at the Chabad Family Shul where she volunteers teaching children and adults how to read Hebrew. Sign-up for weekly communication tips at www.princeheron.com. To learn to read Hebrew, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Morah means teacher and Faiga is her Hebrew name).
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE