Pesach is on its way! The first seder will be on Friday, April 6 — less than two weeks away. And on the second night of Pesach, we begin the process of Counting the Omer, counting each of the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, between the festival of our freedom and the celebration of the revelation of Torah at Sinai, between liberation and covenant.
During the Omer count, I’ll be posting a series of daily Omer teachings on the CBI From the Rabbi blog, which I hope will help enrich and sanctify this special corridor in time. (If you use a blog aggregator or feed reader, you can subscribe to the Omer postings at this feed URL; alternatively, you can choose to receive emails when posts appear on the From the Rabbi blog — click on the “sign me up” button under “Follow blog by email.”) But if you’d like some resources for Counting the Omer on your own, here are four of my favorites. Three are newly-published books, and the fourth came out in 2010.
Omer / Teshuvah: 49 Poetic Meditations for Counting the Omer or Turning Toward a New Year
by Shifrah Tobacman, edited by Rachel Barenblat
This collection of poems by Shifrah Tobacman offers meditations for each of the 49 days of the Omer count, from Pesach to Shavuot, from freedom to revelation. These poems will open your heart and your spirit as you move through the gates of each day. And the book is also designed to be read in the other direction (like a Hebrew book, right to left) during the Omer Teshuvah, the 49 days between Tisha b’Av and Rosh Hashanah.
The collection is edited by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, author of 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia publishing, 2011) and features photography by Elizheva Hurvich.
Omer Calendar of Biblical Women
by Rabbi Jill Hammer with Shir Yaakov Feit
The Omer Calendar of Biblical Women is a journey through the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. According to the Kabbalah, each of these forty-nine days embodies a unique combination of Divine attributes, or sefirot. Each day of this calendar features the story of a biblical woman who embodies the unique spiritual dimension of that day of the Omer. The calendar also contains illustrations from classical paintings and modern midrashic art.
The author of the calendar is Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women and The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons. Rabbi Hammer is Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion. Shir Yaakov Feit, Creative and Music Director of Romemu, New York City’s Center of Judaism for Body, Mind, and Spirit, designed the calendar.
Journey Through the Wilderness: A Mindfulness Approach to the Ancient Jewish Practice of Counting the Omer
By Rabbi Yael Levy
In this book, Rabbi Yael Levy gathers wisdom from Psalms and the Jewish mystical tradition into a unique Mindfulness approach to the ancient Jewish practice of Counting the Omer during the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot.
This 96-page, full-color guide includes the Omer blessings in Hebrew and English, daily teachings and intentions, pages for reflections and photographs to inspire meditation. Daily suggestions for action deepen the experience of counting each day and making each day count.
Using insights gained from more than a decade of her own spiritual exploration with the Omer, Rabbi Levy has created a guide for spiritual growth for beginners and those who have experience with this practice.
Rabbi Yael Levy’s Approach to mindfulness is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. She is the founder of A Way In, A Jewish Mindfulness program based in Philadelphia that offers a range of activities from meditation and contemplative Shabbat services, classes and retreats, as well as online teachings and practice. She is a spiritual director for rabbinical students in both the Reconstructionist and Reform movements as well as in private practice.
Her Mindfulness teaching grows out of her deep personal commitment to spiritual practice and a passionate belief in its potential to change not only individuals but the world.
Counting the Omer: A Kabbalistic Meditation Guide
by Rabbi Min Kantrowitz
Counting the Omer is a Kabbalistic meditation guide to understand the in-depth meanings of each of the forty-nine days between Pesach (Passover) and the Shavuot celebration of the revealing of the Torah. Rabbi Kantrowitz follows Kabbalistic guidelines to show how the unique values of the sephirot interact each day, giving the reader insight into the strengths of the day. Through this guide the reader is led to meditate on the mystical qualities of life and self.
Rabbi Min Kantrowitz is the Director of the Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico, which provides spiritual support and pastoral care services to thousands of unaffiliated Jews. Rabbi Kantrowitz also directs the Albuquerque Community Chevre Kaddisha, facilitates grief support groups and conducts Healing Groups for Jewish survivors of domestic abuse. She is a sought after speaker and teacher, having conducted services, workshops and lectures in Europe, California, Montana, Arizona, and across New Mexico. She received her Rabbinic Ordination in May 2004 from the Academy of Jewish Religion in Los Angeles. In addition, she holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Masters Degrees in Psychology, Architecture, and Rabbinic Studies, as well as a Masters of Science in Jewish Studies.
And, if visual art speaks to you more than does text, try D’vorah Horn’s Omer Series of paintings, available on beautiful printed cards for $36.