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Week 1: Awakening | Counting the Omer with Rabbi Debra Robbins

The 49 days between Passover and Shavuot are called the Omer, and represent our journey from redemption to revelation, where we receive the gift of Torah. These days are seen as a time of spiritual preparation, reflection, and anticipation, symbolizing the journey from physical freedom to spiritual enlightenment.

Each week of the Omer, you will receive an email with a theme, using excerpts from the psalms and from Rabbi Debra Robbins’ book, New Each Day. We invite you to choose any of the exercises to help you on your personal journey from Sea to Sinai, from redemption to revelation. 

We invite you to begin with the blessing for counting the Omer, sung by our cantors. Then, read the excerpts from Psalm 104 and Rabbi Robbins below. 

We hope you enjoy this video of our cantorial team singing about counting the Omer.

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

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.

This week’s theme is AWAKENING. 

While we are still enslaved in Egypt, Moses is called upon by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. His reaction is that of fear and humility, that he cannot be a leader. Moses is being asked to do something challenging. Facing the powerful Egyptian Pharoah, and leading an entire people out of bondage. That would be scary to some people, especially when they do not see their potential.

There is a midrash that suggests that the bush was always burning, but Moses was the first one to see it. He noticed God’s presence, which was always present. His leadership awakened and the trajectory of his life changed.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים מִ֣י אָנֹ֔כִי כִּ֥י אֵלֵ֖ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְכִ֥י אוֹצִ֛יא אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ֣ הָא֔וֹת כִּ֥י אָנֹכִ֖י שְׁלַחְתִּ֑יךָ בְּהוֹצִֽיאֲךָ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם תַּֽעַבְדוּן֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים עַ֖ל הָהָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” And [God] said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”
 – Exodus 3:11-12

Part of the work of the Omer is reflecting on what we are called to do. The first step is awakening to that call because it impacts the path we decide to take. The message that we hear affects the path we ultimately take. It might be scary, or it might be exciting, or it might lead you into the unknown. We can learn from Moses that even with doubt, we are called to have faith and that all we can do is take one step at a time.

Psalm 104:1-5

Bless Adonai, O my soul;
Adonai, my God, You are very great;
You are clothed in glory and majesty,
wrapped in a robe of light;
You spread the heavens like a tent cloth.
You set the rafters of Your lofts in the waters,
makes the clouds His chariot,
moves on the wings of the wind.
You make the winds Your messengers,
fiery flames Your servants.
You established the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never totter. 

Your Messenger – Rabbi Debra Robbins

A cold gust blows the branches of the bare trees,
They scrape against one another.
Your message:
Take shelter,
use your roots for balance,
for sustenance in every storm.

A warm steady breeze crosses the marsh,
the tide silently glides out, and the grasses rise from the mud.
Your message:
Look closely, listen carefully, outside
and inside,
the house, the office, the heart.

The lightest of winds, young and new, hovers close to the ground.
Adjusting the poses of the not-yet-bloomed buds.
Your message:
Learn and practice-
what is soft and small can also be
strong, soothing, sustaining.

Week 1: April 23 – 29

As we count the first week of the Omer together, find some exercises below that will help awaken your potential.

Day 1 – April 23

Read Psalm 104 and reflect on the question: What do you see around you?

Day 2 – April 24

Read the excerpt from “Your Messenger” and reflect on the question: How do you perceive your potential?

Day 3 – April 25

Read Psalm 104 and spend a few minutes journaling about what gratitude awakens in you. 

Day 4 – April 26

Read the excerpt from “Your Messenger” and reflect on the question: What is the message that you hear?

Day 5 – April 27

Go outside and pick one of the excerpts to reread. Reflect on how being outside makes you think differently about the text.

Day 6 – April 28

Think about the two passages. Choose whichever one is more resonant in this moment and share it with a family member or a friend. Discuss what is awakened when you are together.

Day 7 – April 29

Reread both passages. Reflect on the personal message you hear. What support do you need on this path forward?

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