Counting the Omer: Courage

The Omer is the 49-day period between the celebration of Passover and the Festival of Shavuot. Beginning with Passover’s celebration of our liberation from Egypt, it became the custom to count the 49 days of the grain harvest leading to Shavuot, marking each step in our journey to Mount Sinai to receive the gift of Torah and revelation.

Temple Beth El will mark the counting of the Omer this year through the wisdom of Rabbi Karyn Kedar’s book Omer: A Counting. Each of the seven weeks of the Omer will focus on a theme related to growing our spiritual awareness and liberating ourselves from all that keeps us from feeling a sense of spiritual wholeness.

This week’s theme is COURAGE.

Courage to live. Courage to love. Courage to risk. Courage to fail. And patience. It takes time to become the person we want to be, to grow and unfold, to fail and persevere. There is a vastness between what is possible and what is real; an expanse of uncertainty, ambiguity, and doubt. When we are afraid, we are paralyzed, suspended in midair between imagination and manifestation. It is the natural course of things to have our dreams lay fallow; only care and determination make the ground rich and ready to bear fruit. When we see our limitations as failure, we are afraid. Be brave and step into your life.

Daily Prompts and Questions

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidshanu B’Mitzvotav V’Tzivanu Al Sefirat HaOmer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctifies us with mitzvot, and commands us concerning the counting of the Omer.

May 12 - Day 36

And Moses, afraid, pleaded, Please, O my God,
I have never been a man of words…
I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.
And God simply said to him,
Who gives human speech?
Who makes him dumb, or deaf, seeing or blind?
Is it not I, the Eternal?

Exodus 4:11

Question to Consider:

  • Who do you feel courageous enough to share your vulnerabilities with? Why?
May 13 - Day 37

Though I have fallen, I rise again; Though I sit in darkness, God is my light.

Micah 7:8

Question to Consider:

  • How do you cultivate courage to try something again?
May 14 - Day 38

Man is afraid of things that cannot harm him, and he knows it; and he craves things that cannot help him, and he knows it. But actually, it is something within man he is afraid of, and something within man that he craves…

When senseless hatred reigns on earth, and men hide their faces from one another, then heaven is forced to hide its face. But when love comes to rule the earth, and men reveal their faces to one another, then the splendor of God will be revealed.

Martin Buber, Ten Rungs: Collected Hasidic Sayings

Question to Consider:

  • Why do actions take courage even when they don’t have a risk of harm or failure?
  • In what situations does it take courage for you to show the world who you are?
May 15 - Day 39

We have to trust that, when the time comes, God, who helps us know how to live, will help us know how to die. We must hope that God, who privileges us with the capacity to know justice, share love, and experience beauty, will also grant us generosity, humility, and wisdom, so that we can both live and let go of life well.

Jonathan Wittenberg, The Eternal Journey: Meditations on the Jewish Year

Questions to Consider:

  • How can your relationship with the Holy One make you more courageous?
  • What attributes in yourself help you cultivate your courage?
May 16 - Day 40

A learned one of David;
A prayer when he was in a cave.
I cry to God with my voice,
With my cry I pray to you… 
Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may give thanks unto your name.

Psalm 141:1-2,8

Questions to Consider:

  • When your courageousness leads to success, how do you respond?
  • What generally happens when you ask for help?
May 17 - Day 41

I am a bow in your hand, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.
Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.
Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break!

Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

Questions to Consider:

  • What does it feel like when you step too far outside your comfort zone? 
  • Or when you stay too close to it?
May 18 - Day 42

Just as the winged energy of delight
carried you over many chasms early on,
now raise the faringly imagined arch
holding up the astounding bridges.

Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned

To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words; 
denser and denser the pattern becomes–
being carried along is not enough.

Take your well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.

Rainer Maria Rilke, in Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke,

Edited and translated by Robert Bly

Questions to Consider:

  • What sort of courage does it take to teach God?
  • How do past versions of yourself support you in this moment, today?
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