Yesterday I took an amazing cooking class, Raw Chocolate Desserts. We learned how to make chocolate caramels, chocolate mousse, chocolate peanut butter cups and brownie bites, all with raw organic ingredients and no refined sugar. It was a wonderful afternoon of gastronomical delight, and it also got me thinking about counting the Omer.
The ancient mystical tradition of counting the Omer is one of my very favorite Jewish spiritual practices. It’s a mindfulness pilgrimage of 49 days, seven weeks journeying from the physical liberation of Pesach to the spiritual liberation of Shavuot. Counting the Omer is a daily and weekly practice seven of the Kabbalistic sefirot (emanations of Divine energy/aspects of holiness). The image I have is that the sefirah of the week is wrapped around the sefirah of the day, and as I was making those sublime chocolate covered caramels, they became a tasty metaphor for each day of the Omer.
The first week of the Omer is the week of Chesed, loving kindness, and this first day is Chesed she’b’chesed, loving kindness wrapped in loving kindness. What an auspicious beginning. Passover, our physical freedom from slavery, opens us to our capacity for loving kindness. In this first week of Chesed, loving kindness is the chocolate outside of the candy AND the magical caramel center.
Take a moment to reflect on chesed. Recall a memory when you experienced another person’s loving kindness–that genuine expression of compassionate generosity that Buddhists call metta. Breathe into that memory.
Reflect on another memory when someone else received your loving kindness. Perhaps you offered a hug to a child or adult who was hurting. Or cared for a beloved pet or animal. What does it feel like when someone else truly receives your chesed?
And this Omer meditation would be incomplete without mentioning the importance of holding yourself with loving kindness, rather than the self-critical internal chatter that is so prevalent for many of us. If you took a “selfie” of yourself extending chesed to yourself, what would that look like?
Reflection question: What is one action step you can take this week to give and receive loving kindness with greater openness?
Blessed are you, Holy One of Many Names, source of all life, who has made us holy with your mitzvot, and commanded us concerning the counting of the Omer.
Today begins the first day of the Omer, which is 1 week and 1 day of the Omer.
Feminine God language: B’ruchah at Yah Eloheynu chay ha’olamim asher kideshatnu bemitzvoteha vetzivatnu al sefirat ha’omer.
Masculine God language: Baruch atah Adonai Eloheynu Ruach ha’olam asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
Omer counting prayer adapted from Ritualwell.com