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Counting the Omer: Hope

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 HOPE.

Anticipating, believing, affirming, thinking abundantly, even when our self-confidence is not strong. Hope takes practice. When the human spirit aspires, we stretch. When we reach beyond what enslaves us, we live with light and goodness. When hope becomes the answer to fear, so much is possible. Imagine the possibilities when we envision ourselves as strong, healthy, loving. Miracles abound.

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.

April 28 - Day 22

Creator of darkness and light,
banish my despair,
turn aside my indifference,
soften the callousness of my heart.

Open my eyes
that I may see that
beauty abounds,
and that love abides

Enlighten my life with
holiness and grace:
As it is written:
Come, let us walk in the light of God (Isaiah 2:5)

Rabbi Karyn Kedar

Question to Consider:

  • What is our role in cultivating hope? What is God’s role?
April 29 - Day 23

The eye has a dark part and a light part. One can see only through the dark part.

Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat T’zaveh

Questions to Consider:

  • What do we hope for in good times? What do we hope for in bad?
  • How do we move forward through challenging times?
April 30 - Day 24

It’s a quintessential Jewish act: seeking, grappling. If you’re reaching, it’s because you believe there’s something to grab hold of.

Abby Pogrebin quoted by Sarah Hurwitz, Here All Along

Question to Consider:

  • What drives you to keep reaching?
May 1 - Day 25

At the outset of creation (Genesis 1:27), the Bible teaches that human beings are made in God’s image. Can one be in the image of that which is not physical? Along with God’s existence, this idea of human beings as lifted above nature, in God’s image, is the fundamental religious truth that is under most serious attack.

Some modern historians robbed us of the idea of our uniqueness. Believing we were special creations, evolution taught us that we were not. Since then, confidence in God’s relation to human beings has faded, for to be in the image of God cannot mean that 1 percent of our DNA is different from that of a chimpanzee.

Rabbi David J. Wolpe, Why Faith Matters

Questions to Consider:

  • How is it hopeful to remember that we are made in the image of God?
  • How can remembering that others are made in the image of God cultivate hope for our world?
May 2 - Day 26

“To be a Jew is to be an agent of hope in a world serially threatened by despair. Every ritual, every mitzvah, every syllable of the Jewish story, every element of Jewish law, is a protest against escapism, resignation or the blind acceptance of fate. Judaism is a sustained struggle, the greatest ever known, against the world that is, in the name of the world that could be, should be, but is not yet. … Judaism is the religion, and Israel the home, of hope.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Questions to Consider:

  • How does the Jewish struggle inform hope?
  • Where is your home of hope?
May 3 - Day 27

If what’s under cynicism and sarcasm is despair, the antidote is cultivating hope. According to the research of C.R. Snyder, hope isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling; he actually defines it as a cognitive emotional process that has three parts. This is a process that most of us, if we’re lucky, are taught growing up, though it can be learned at any time: The three parts are goal, pathway and agency. We can identify a realistic goal (I know where I want to go) and then we can figure out a pathway to get there, even if it’s not a straight line and involves Plan B and scrappiness (I know I can get there because I’m persistent and I will keep trying in the face of setbacks and disappointment). Agency is our ability to stay on that path until we’ve arrived (I know I can do this). 

Again, while a cynic might argue that someone who clings to hope is a sucker, or ridiculously earnest, this type of armor typically comes from pain. Often, people’s cynicism is related to despair. As the theologian Rob Bell explains, “Despair is the belief that tomorrow will be just like today.” That is a devastating line. The problem with cynicism and sarcasm is that they are typically system- and culturewide- it’s just so easy to take shots at other people. As brave leaders, it is essential not to reward or allow it. Reward clarity and kindness and real conversation, and teach hope instead.

Brene Brown, Dare to Lead

Questions to Consider:

  • In what ways can cultivating hope be your anecdote to despair? I’m
  • How does hope help on your journey?
May 4 - Day 28

As long as within our hearts
The Jewish soul sings,
As long as forward to the East
To Zion, looks the eye –
Our hope is not yet lost,
It is two thousand years old,
To be a free people in our land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Naphtali Herz Imber, “HaTikvah”

Question to Consider:

  • How can the hope for Israel inspire hope in our own lives?
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