Tonight is the last night Jews count the omer. Originally, a harvest practice of collecting sheaves (omer) of barley, the Kabbalistic mystics redefined it as a time of spiritual journeying through the divine attributes of the Tree of Life, in preparation for the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot (which is celebrated this Thursday evening through Saturday.) Not coincidentally, this time of inner reflection and anticipation is mirrored in the Christian tradition’s Lenten season leading to Pentecost, celebrated this Sunday.
In both cases, we are given tools for inner spiritual reflection which leads to revelation. Or put another way awakening to Awe and Aha! Whether a mixed multitude of seekers at the base of Har Sinai or a gathering of disciples hidden in an upper room, both groups were trying to make meaning of the upheaval of their lives. What do we do when the life we used to live is now too small but we’re afraid to step into our spiritual power?
We are at such a moment today, I believe. The past 3+ years have seen pandemic isolation, the senseless killing of black folk, the taking away of bodily autonomy of people with uteruses and trans youth, the almost 500 pieces of legislation in 47 states restricting the rights of queer folk, their families and their medical providers, the astronomical rise in hate crimes against not just queer folk but refugees, Asians, and Jews. It is hard to not despair when the beloved community is under attack; when return to the “good ol’ days” espoused by some means the negation of the rights and safety of others. We must recognize that what is at stake for us all is the right to fully embody the expanded reality of what it means to be created in the Image of the Divine. We can’t go back to ignorance and prejudice once we have awoken to the spark of the Divine in each of our human and nonhuman siblings on this planet.
Tonight the Omer concludes with the attributes (one for the day and one for the week) of Shekhinah shebe Malchut – majesty in sovereignty or presence in embodiment. Shekhinah is the Divine indwelling presence and she is considered represented in both iterations (whether one counts in the traditional form of Malchut shebe Malchut or in the egalitarian version I just used). I especially take hope in the combining of the feminine and masculine iterations as an embodiment of the sacredness expressed in all genders. How will we manifest our divine empowerment and authority; how will the Holy Spirit anoint our actions and intentions to heal this broken world?
I would love this to become a conversation that visions a different future, where we step into our spiritual power not just to fight the needed fight against Christian Nationalism and fascism, but to recommit ourselves to love instead of fear. Let our Aha be in seeing those who would harm us as also frightened (because anger and prejudice are faces of fear); they too are in need of our example of love. May the Awe which we know by many names and no name, strengthen our spirits and empower us as a priesthood of all believers coming together on the Holy Mountain.