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Week 5: Witness | 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. 

This week’s theme is WITNESS.

We invite you to begin with the blessing for counting the Omer, sung by our cantors.

Then, read the excerpts and poems 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.

We are deep in our journey through the desert. Around us seems to be an endless expanse of sand. The sun feels warmer by the minute. Every direction looks the same so it is easy to feel lost, in the infinite desert. How are we supposed to move forward? Each step might be filled with trepidation. But when we look up, we can turn toward the Holy One and to ourselves.

Psalm 121: 1-2

שִׁ֗יר לַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת אֶשָּׂ֣א עֵ֭ינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִ֑ים מֵ֝אַ֗יִן יָבֹ֥א עֶזְרִֽי׃עֶ֭זְרִי מֵעִ֣ם יְהֹוָ֑ה עֹ֝שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ׃

A song for ascents.
I turn my eyes to the mountains;
from where will my help come?
My help will come from God
Maker of heaven and earth.

Each step we take paves a path, full of our individual choices. At some point, we will find our way out of the desert. Four weeks ago, we witnessed a great miracle: exodus. Now, we journey forward, and find strength where we can. This is a week of noticing the miracles created by God, and the greatness found from the summation of our steps. Let us bear witness to the journey, and all that has helped us reach this moment.

Psalm 48: 9-11

As we have not shut our ears, so we have not shut our eyes,
In the city of Adonai of hosts, in the city of our God,
God has established it forever– selah!
We have meditated on Your covenental love
In the innermost parts of Your Temple
Like Your name, God, so is Your praise, to the ends of the earth;
You right hand is filled with justice.

My Translation – Rabbi Debra Robbins

We have meditated on Your convenantal love,
In the innermost parts of Your Temple.

We witnessed, O God, Your kindness,
in the midst of Your Temple.

We are awed speechless, Source of Life, by Your kindness,
as we stand in Your Temple.

We imagined Your mercy,
O God, in the midst of Your palace.

O God, we beseech Your loyalty
that we may experience Your vindication in Your Temple.

In Your Temple, God,
we meditate upon your faithful care.

Week 5: May 21-27

Let us bear witness to the journey, and all that has helped us reach this moment.

Day 29 – May 21

In her excerpt, Rabbi Robbins repeatedly uses the word meditate. What does that word mean to you? 

Day 30 – May 22

Look around your space. What changes, or points of growth, do you notice? How long has it taken for those changes to be made?

Day 31 – May 23

Read the excerpts from the Psalms. What relationship do you feel between yourself and the Holy One?

Day 32 – May 24

Read the excerpt from Rabbi Robbins. How have you witnessed kindness around you? How has that lead to your growth?

Day 33 – May 25

Day 33 is a special day in the Omer. Many people celebrate the day with picnics and bonfires, as a way of remembering Jewish resistance to oppression. Take this day to reflect on the challenges that have impacted you in the last thirty-three days.

Day 34 – May 26

Read the excerpt from Psalm 121. Where are you looking up from? Reflect on where you are in this moment, and where help might lead you.

Day 35 – May 27

Read the excerpt from Psalm 48. It begins with a reflection of the action we have taken. What do you hear when you take a moment to listen?

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