Day By Day: Passover 2013

omerPassover begins on Monday night. If you’re Jewish, you know the story. If not, envision the 10 plagues and Red Sea parting stories you’ve seen, heard, or read. More deeply, it’s about getting out of slavery, leaving what in Hebrew is called mitzrayim, the narrow place.

Most of us aren’t literal slaves, but our lives include constrictions great and small, imposed by self or others. These narrowings can take many forms. A process of accretion: fewer risks and repeated choices, everything from friends to food. Staying too long in a job or relationship. Not acting how and when we know we should.

Nothing wrong with depth. But the absence of breadth can also lead to an absence of deep breathing. To a familiarity that can lead us to avoid looking closely or often enough into the mirror of self-scrutiny. When narrow places become damaging it’s important to change. Now’s a great time to recognize them, and lighten their grip.

Those whose close folks are insightful, articulate, and brave may get told what we’re not always ready to hear. Too often we respond, You want me to do what? No thanks. I’m comfy right here. Please pass the chips.

During the 49 days that start Tuesday evening you can participate in a ritual called the counting of the omer. It’s a time to open yourself to new ways of seeing and being through a daily practice.

The meditations are tied to lower seven positions (sephirot) on the Tree of Life. Each is an attribute of the divine, and an attribute of self as we mirror the divine. We meditate on them in succession each week, focusing on how they reflect and refine the theme of the week:

  • Week 1   Chesed: unconditional loving-kindness
  • Week 2   Gevurah: restraint, justice
  • Week 3   Tipheret: beauty, harmony compassion
  • Week 4   Netzach: energy, zeal, endurance
  • Week 5   Hod: glory, splendor, creativity
  • Week 6   Yesod: foundation, possibility
  • Week 7   Malkuth: living in the earthly kingdom with our inner spark aglow.

We examine and illuminate these traits in ourselves each day, seven times seven, shining light on our hidden places, and improving at least a little into our better selves.

If you’ve never done this before, keep it simple. In week one, concentrate on loving-kindness. Every evening, every morning, and a few times during the day, really take it in: that you are loved by a loving G-d. That your job is to reflect that love back into the world. To be gentler, more open, more giving. To practice gratitude. Week two, think about boundaries, about where you’re too tight and where you’re too codependent. When you’re too judgmental or your edges impermeable. Where you could soften. And so on.

You can google for more detailed instructions or daily prompts, and find numerous interpretations of the sephirot and their interactions. Go with what speaks to you. Journaling the omer is a wonderful practice. Your questions matter as much as your insights and answers. Even with the best of intentions, it’s difficult to do well for 49 days. But go as long and deep as you can, and jump back in even if you lapse.

You can listen to others, or guide yourself. There’s no wrong path if it opens your heart.