by Rabbi Michael Schwab
“THREE, TWO, ONE . . . !” In most situations, when we are excited about something, we count down. However, as we began to do on Saturday night, when it comes to the Omer, we count up. As the Torah tells us, “You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God” (Leviticus 23:15-16).
After being freed from Egyptian slavery, during Passover we move with great anticipation towards our next pivotal experience as a people, Revelation on Mt. Sinai. This is literally meant to be an uplifting experience as Moses climbs the mountain and elevates the status of the people to be a sacred people, a nation of priests. We count up as a spiritual metaphor for climbing in holiness as we create our sacred covenant with G-d.
This idea, of “rising in holiness” (Ma’alin B’kosesh), does not just apply to the Omer and the Sinai moment. Rather, it was adopted as a rabbinic principle that we should strive to embrace at all times in our lives. Jews should always seek those activities that help us to rise in holiness. We should strive to constantly count up! In ritual life that could mean attending more services, observing one more law, or increasing one’s Jewish learning. In ethical life this could mean increasing tzedakah, attempting to improve one’s virtues, or adding more volunteer hours. Regardless, it is during this period of the Omer that we make a concerted effort to rise in holiness as we count up from Exodus to Sinai. Therefore, for each week of the Omer, our Siddur Lev Shalem frames our effort to better ourselves using a theme from the Kabbalistic sefirot. This serves to aid us in our personal journey to rise in holiness. Please join along with us each evening at minyan as we count the Omer, or please use your siddur to do so privately at home, starting this week using this link: https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/firstweekoftheomer.pdf
May we all rise in holiness together as we count up during the period of the Omer! Hag Sameah!