With the mitzvah of counting the 49 days, known as Sefirat Ha'Omer, the Torah invites us on a journey into the human psyche, into the soul. There are seven basic emotions that make up the spectrum of human experience. At the root of all forms of enslavement, is a distortion of these emotions. Each of the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot is dedicated to examining and refining one of them.
The seven emotional attributes are:
Chesed ― Loving-kindness
Gevurah ― Justice and discipline
Tiferet ― Harmony, compassion
Netzach ― Endurance
Hod ― Humility
Yesod ― Bonding
Malchut ― Sovereignty, leadership
The seven weeks, which represent these emotional attributes, further divide into seven days making up the 49 days of the counting. Since a fully functional emotion is multidimensional, it includes within itself a blend of all seven attributes. Thus, the counting of the first week, which began on the second night of Pesach, as well as consisting of the actual counting ("Today is day one of the Omer...") would consist of the following structure with suggested meditations:
Upon conclusion of the 49 days we arrive at the 50th day ― Mattan Torah. After we have achieved all we can accomplish through our own initiative, traversing and refining every emotional corner of our psyche, we then receive a gift ('mattan' in Hebrew) from above. We receive that which we could not achieve with our own limited faculties. We receive the gift of true freedom ― the ability to transcend our human limitations and touch the divine.
We have just finished Week One: Chesed – Loving Kindness (and their attributes):
Day 1 ― Chesed of Chesed: Loving-kindness in Loving-kindness
Love is the single most powerful and necessary component in life. It is both giving and receiving. Love allows us to reach above and beyond ourselves, to experience another person and to allow that person to experience us. It is the tool by which we learn to experience the highest reality ― God. Examine the love aspect of your love.
Ask yourself: What is my capacity to love another person? Do I have problems with giving? Am I stingy or selfish? Is it difficult for me to let someone else into my life? Am I afraid of my vulnerability, of opening up and getting hurt?
Day 2 ― Gevurah of Chesed: Discipline in Loving-kindness
Healthy love must always include an element of discipline and discernment; a degree of distance and respect for another's boundaries; an assessment of another's capacity to contain your love. Love must be tempered and directed properly. Ask a parent who, in the name of love, has spoiled a child; or someone who suffocates a spouse with love and doesn't allow them any personal space.
Day 3 ― Tiferet of Chesed: Compassion, Harmony in Loving-kindness
Harmony in love is one that blends both the chesed and gevurah aspects of love. Harmonized love includes empathy and compassion. Love is often given with the expectation of receiving love in return. Compassionate love is given freely; expects nothing in return ― even when the other doesn't deserve love. Tiferet is giving also to those who have hurt you.
Day 4 ― Netzach of Chesed: Endurance in Loving-kindness
Is my love enduring? Does it withstand challenges and setbacks? Do I give and withhold love according to my moods or is it constant regardless of the ups and downs of life?
Day 5 ― Hod of Chesed: Humility in Loving-kindness
You can often get locked in love and be unable to forgive your beloved or to bend or compromise your position. Hod introduces the aspect of humility in love; the ability to rise above yourself and forgive or give in to the one you love just for the sake of love even if you're convinced that you're right. Arrogant love is not love.
Day 6 ― Yesod of Chesed: Bonding in Loving-kindness
For love to be eternal it requires bonding. A sense of togetherness which actualizes the love in a joint effort. An intimate connection, kinship and attachment, benefiting both parties. This bonding bears fruit; the fruit born out of a healthy union.
Day 7 ― Malchut of Chesed: Nobility in Loving-kindness
Mature love comes with ― and brings ― personal dignity. An intimate feeling of nobility and regality. Knowing your special place and contribution in this world. Any love that is debilitating and breaks the human spirit is no love at all. For love to be complete it must have the dimension of personal sovereignty.
See next post on the Second Sefira, Gevurah.