Counting the Omer with Locally Grown: Week 7 with Heath Mackenzie Reynolds

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May 6, 2013 by mcknz

Tuesday starts the last week of our Omer counting. Are you ready? I’m not.  Not in the least.

The truth is, every year I start out with good intentions. Much like New Years wishes, my good intentions slowly dissolve, explained away by excuses: I am too tired, I forgot last night and this morning, it is too late at night, what number are we on again? and on and on. I’m not terribly good at this practice.

Start on the red space at the top right of the chart and wind your way down to the purple, and the colors going from right to left diagonally across the chart are the 7 colors of the rainbow. Everything else is a blend.

I’m not good at it, but I love it. I love the counting of the days, I love naming them. I love my friends’ made-up ways of counting. I love the Kabbalistic system for counting these days through the sefirot: Chesed (loving-kindness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (beauty), Netzach (endurance), Hod (humility), Yesod (foundation, bonding), and Malchut (divine presence). I love the calendars people come up with to mark these days, especially this beautiful spectrumed calendar. And mostly, I love that my most basic question from Pesach is given some shape: What do we do after the Exodus from Egypt? We wander, we count, we wait, and we work – we harvest: this sojourn leads us to Sinai, where, finally, we receive Torah. Wandering leads to wandering, leads to labor and harvesting, leads to diligence, leads – slowly – to Malchut, divine presence, revelation.

Divine presence (whatever that might mean to each of us individually, maybe the spirit of that which is larger than ourselves), is also the most concretely physical of these sefirot. Presence implies place and form: here with us, and not just idea or spirit but also, somehow, matter. What this presence is or means, I do not know. Most expansively, we are reflecting on what it means to be alive in this world, made holy, in the image of the divine; most concretely, we are reflecting on what it means to have been given words of wisdom in the Torah, to guide us on our way through this world. It’s not small, the ask.

Lately, my therapist has been having me explore what it might be like to feel just a drop of the love shown to me in my daily life really get through to me, under my skin and defenses and fear, to just-me. It’s a useful image for considering Malchut and being in the midst of the divine presence. What would it mean to take in just a drop of the idea of the divine presence, just enough so that questions and doubt don’t overpower us, and just sit there, with a sense of divine presence with, or within, us. What would it mean to take in just a drop everyday from now until Shavuot, so that at the time of receiving Torah, we are able to take it in a little deeper, a little more. What new things could be revealed to us about the world we live in, about the texts that guide us through it? What new things could we reveal to ourselves, about who we are in this world, and how, and why?

Malchut helps us to meditate on these questions. and to see through to the biggest picture of the Omer practice. It’s from this point that we can see what we’re moving towards more clearly. This week, try to take some time to check in with yourself and see  – what would it be like to take in this drop of a sense of something larger than yourself, or something divine, in? Reflect on the world through that drop of divine presence. See yourself, the people around you, your work, your innermost being, the struggles and joy of the world we live in, through that drop. And as you move on towards Sinai and revelation, see what it might feel like to do so with just the smallest drop of what is in store in your heart.

The counting, for these last nine nights of the Omer, we move from Yesod (foundation) to Malchut:

  • May 5 – Day 41: Hayom e-chad v’arbaim yom, shehaym chami-sha shavuot v’shi-sha yamim ba-omer
  • May 6 – Day 42: Ha-yom sh’nayim v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot ba-omer
  • May 7 – Day 43: Ha-yom sh’losha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot v’yom e-chad ba-omer
  • May 8 – Day 44: Ha-yom arba-a v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot ushnay yamim ba-omer
  • May 9 – Day 45: Ha-yom chami-sha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot u’shelosha yamim ba-omer 
  • May 10 – Day 46: Ha-yom shi-sha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot v’arba-a yamim ba-omer
  • May 11 – Day 47: Ha-yom shiva v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot va’chami-sha yamim ba-omer 
  • May 12 – Day 48: Ha-yom shemonah v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot v’shi-sha yamim ba-omer
  • May 13 – Day 49: Ha-yom tisha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shiv-a shavuot ba-omer 

Looking for Shavuot plans still? Come to Shavuot Across Brooklyn, a huge community Shavuot hosted by Congregation Beth Elohim and sponsored by Altshul, Brooklyn Jews, Congregation Beth Elohim, Congregation Mount Sinai, Flatbush Jewish Center, Hannah Senesh Community Day School, Israelis in Brooklyn, Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn, Kolot Chayeinu, LABA, Locally Grown Shabbat, Mishkan Minyan, Moishe House, Park Slope Jewish Center, Prospect Heights Shul, Shir HaMaalot, and Union Temple.

[see previous weeks’ reflections at Young Jewish Brooklyn]

Heath Mackenzie Reynolds has spent the last decade working as a resource specialist, and has experience working in health centers, community organizations, libraries, and congregations. She is a co-coordinator of Locally Grown Shabbat, a minyan for young adults at Kolot Chayeinu in Park Slope, the creator of Young Jewish Brooklyn, a coordinated calendar of activities by and for young Jews in Brooklyn, and a member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Heath graduated from Seattle University with a BA in Theology and Religious Studies with minors in Philosophy and Women Studies, and received an MA with honors in Philosophy of Religion from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She’s in her third year of a Mussar practice, and is passionate about building community, working for justice, and repairing the world, through ritual, intention, relationship building, and joy.


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