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The Countdown Begins

By Tzvi Fishman
4/19/2011, 12:00 AM

It’s so great to be a Jew! We are still in the midst of the fantastic high of Pesach and we are already gearing up for the next great high of Shavuot – and the giving of the Torah. So let's take a look at Sefirat HaOmer (the counting of the Omer). Like all of the other commandments, Sefirat HaOmer is loaded with Kabbalistic significance. Without the Kabbalah, we would not know what we were doing when we put on tefillin, wave the lulav, or blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.

Yes, there are simple explanations, but someone who only familiarizes himself with pashat, or simple understandings, resembles a swimmer who is afraid to put on a mask and stick his face in the water. If you tell him there is a whole beautiful, marine world below the surface, teeming with all forms of life, he won't believe you because he has never experienced this deeper, inner world for himself.

When it comes to Sefirat HaOmer, look in your prayer books. At least in the major league prayer books in Israel, you will see adjacent to each day of the counting, two mystical words like Hesed of Hesed, Tiferet of Gevorah, or Hod of Tiferet. These words are from the Kabbalistic world of the Sefirot (channels of spiritual blessing).

Each day of the counting, we are called upon to rectify another sefirah. This is an integral part of the process of inner purification that we are to undergo as we approach the holiday of Shavuot. We are not only to mention the day, but also to undertake the detailed, laborious toil of perfecting our character traits and the channels of celestial blessing that are directly parallel to them, just as a marionette puppet is connected to the hand above, or just like the keys of a piano are connected to the chords inside the piano's lid. Each time a key is hit, a different sound is produced. So too, each time we improve a character trait, a channel of blessing is cleansed in the spiritual worlds above, releasing a flow of blessing to our world below.

If this inner process is just some Kabbalistic mumbo jumbo that doesn't exist, as some unfortunate souls have the arrogance to claim, then why is it written in every prayer book, at least in Israel, the following recitation:

"May it be Thy will before You, our L-rd, our G-d, G-d of our Forefathers, that in the merit of Sefirat HaOmer which I counted today, that all the damage I have done to the sefirah of (such and such day) will be rectified, and I will be purified and sanctified by the holiness of the upper world, and through this, a great flow of blessing will go forth to all of the spiritual and physical worlds, and will rectify our physical and emotional drives, our intellectual spirits, and our Divine souls from all of their pollutions and blemishes, and leave us sanctified with Your exalted holiness, Amen, Sela."     

Obviously, as Bob Dylan, used to sing: "Something is going on Mr. Jones, and you don't know what it is."

As we have explained in the introduction to the book, “Secret of the Brit,” posted on the website, the spiritual channel of “Yesod” is associated with the holiness of our sexual lives. The Hebrew word “Yesod” means foundation. As we approach the exalted holiness of Shavuot, and the giving of the Torah, now is the time to make an honest appraisal of our sexual lives and to begin to put things in order. Many times, as years go by, we forget the laws we learned in preparation for our wedding. These laws should be relearned since they are the foundation of Jewish life. We should also be honest with ourselves in seeing what “extras” and “frills” we could do away with in the bedroom to insure the sanctity of our relations. Without going into the mystical side of the matter, what goes on in the bedroom, or in a rented hotel room, or in front of a computer, or with the girls in the office, determine the state of our mental and physical health, our livelihood, our marital happiness, and what happens to our children.

The “Nefesh HaChaim” explains that the cautioning of our Sages, דע מה למעלה ממך “Know what is above from you” - the decrees from Above affecting your life – they are all ממך "from you.” How we behave in this world brings down the blessings or their opposite which befall us. Not everything stems from sexual sins. Things like arrogance, anger, and lashon hara can wreak havoc on our lives,  but very often, sexual transgressions lay at the root of our problems. During Sefirat HaOmer, when we are called upon to rectify our character traits, setting our Yesod-Foundation in order should be at the top of our list.