Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Cycles of Shovavim Tat:
Shin: Torah study (Fire)
Vav: Hitbodedut (Connection)
Bet/Bet: Bahab fasting
Yud: Tikkun HaKlali (Ten Psalms)
Mem: Taanit Dibbur (Closed Mouth)
Tav/Tav: Teshuvah/Tzedakah/Tefilah; Tikkun Rachel/Tikkun Leah
Count from Yom Rishon close to Rosh Hashanah to match Parasha Shemot as beginning of Week 17:
Weeks 1-8 : Shin (Moshe)
Weeks 9-16: Vav (Aaron)
Weeks 17-24: Bet (Mordechai)
Weeks 25-32: Bet (Esther)
Weeks 33-40: Yud (Rashbi)
Weeks 41-48: Mem (Arizal)
Weeks 49-50: Tav (Baal Shem Tov)
Weeks 51-52: Tav (Rebbe Nachman)
Week 49: Shin - Vav
Week 50: Bet/Bet
Week 51: Yud - Mem
Week 52: Tav/Tav
In years with two Adars, extra four weeks are 25-26: Tav (Mashiach); 27-28: Tav (Eliyahu)
Monday, August 23, 2021
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, teaches that one should “live with the times.” (Hayom Yom, 2nd of Cheshvan, p. 101) By connecting Jewish lessons to fixed times in the Jewish calendar, the book is meant to serve as a tool for self-reflection and spiritual development.
The Counting of the Omer
The Counting of the Omer,
known in Hebrew as Sefirat Ha'Omer, is a Torah commandment to count
the weeks and days from which the omer sacrifice was offered
in the Temple. This sacrifice was made of barley, which in those days was
primarily an animal food, and had the Biblical measurement of one omer.
The counting takes place every year during the 49 days between the holidays of
Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost).
The Counting of the Omer has
always been used by the Jewish People as a basis for spiritual development. In
Egypt, the Jewish People had reached the 49th level of
spiritual impurity. During the first 49 days that followed their escape from
Egypt, the Jewish people gradually purified itself, until it reached the 49th level
of purity. Within but seven weeks, upon reaching Mount Sinai, the Jewish people
had become so spiritually and emotionally refined that the entire nation was
able to encamp there in complete harmony, peace, and unity: “as one person with
one heart.” It
was only in this way that they merited to receive the Torah.
During the omer count
performed every year between Passover and Shavuot, there is a
custom to spend each day concentrating on a different combination of sefirot. Sefirot,
as further explained below, are Divine attributes which are also
found within every individual. By doing so, it is possible to obtain a level of
spiritual and emotional improvement similar to what the Jewish people achieved
after leaving Egypt.
The Counting of the Omer takes
places mostly during the Jewish month of Iyar, a month known for
its healing powers. A hint of Iyar’s connection to healing is found
within the letters of its name, alef, yud and reish,
an acronym from the biblical verse Ani Hashem Rofechah, “I am G-d
Besides from being a time of
great spiritual elevation and healing, unfortunately the omer is
also a reminder of a sad period in the history of the Jewish people.
Twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva passed away during these days.
They suffered from a plague inflicted due to their lack of unity and respect
for one another, the very opposite of what characterized the Children of Israel
at Mount Sinai.
The plague ended on the 33rd day
of the omer, known as Lag Ba’Omer. This is one of the
reasons why this date is so commemorated. Another reason for celebrating Lag
Ba’Omer is because it is the yahrzeit – the
anniversary of the passing – of the great tzadik Rabbi Shimon
Bar Yochai, who died many years after the plague. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai,
himself a student of Rabbi Akiva, is the author of the Zohar, the
basic and most important text of the Kabbalah.
The order in which the
combination of sefirot takes place for each day of the omer follows
a very simple principle. As further explained below, there are seven
emotional sefirot, and since the Counting of the Omer occurs
over seven weeks, each week represents one sefirah. The first week
represents the first sefirah, chesed (kindness),
while the second week represents the second sefirah, gevurah (discipline),
and so forth. Furthermore, each day within each week represents a subdivision
of one of the seven emotional sefirot within that sefirah.
For example, the first day of the omer represents the
attribute of chesed within chesed (chesed
shebechesed), as it is the first day of the first week. The second day of
the first week represents the attribute of gevurah within chesed (gevurah
shebechesed). Lag Ba'Omer is the fifth day of the fifth
week. The fifth sefirah is hod, and
therefore Lag Ba’Omer represents hod shebehod.
The sefirot combinations of each day of the omer are
found in most prayerbooks.
Furthermore, the most basic
element in the commandment of the Counting of the Omer is to
give each day a specific number. Numbers in Judaism have tremendous meaning
that goes much beyond their day-to-day usage. Each number has kabbalistic
significance, and each letter in the Jewish calendar has a numerical value.
Incredibly, just as Lag
Ba’Omer takes place on the thirty-third day of the omer,
two thirds into the counting between Passover and Shavuot, so too –
and this is quite remarkable – the week of Lag Ba’Omer falls
two thirds into the Jewish year, exactly on the thirty-third week! Each week of
the year therefore parallels each day of the Counting of the Omer,
and each week is connected to the sefirah combination for that
day. It is therefore possible to work on oneself through the sefirot and
the numbers related to the omer during the entire year.
Pirkei Avot and Perek Shirah
In addition, from Passover
to Shavuot, in most religious Jewish communities there is a custom
to study the Pirkei Avot, also as a mechanism of
self-improvement. Pirkei Avot, which literally means “Chapters of
the Fathers,” is part of the Mishnah (the Oral Torah) compiled
by Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi. In these chapters, each of the main rabbis of the
generation writes in concise form what he considers to be most important in
order to live ethically and in accordance with the principles of the
Torah. Pirkei Avot can also be understood as “Father Chapters,”
since these chapters include the fundamental principles for the study and
fulfillment of the rest of the Torah. In this sense, the teachings
of Pirkei Avot are like "parents," and the rest of
the Torah’s teachings are like their children.
This book shows how the
teachings of rabbis found within the first four chapters of Pirkei Avot are
organized in such a way that each rabbi corresponds to a week of the year.
Similarly, this book will show how this weekly method of self-improvement is
also related to each animal of Perek Shirah.
Perek Shirah, which means Chapter of Song,
is an ancient text that is not very well known, as it has been published only
in a handful of prayerbooks around the world. While the authorship of this work
is not certain, many attribute it to King David. Perek Shirah itself
hints to David’s authorship as it describes his interaction with a frog
immediately following the completion of the Book of Psalms. In this
conversation, the frog exclaims, “David! Do not become proud, for I recite more
songs and praises than you.”
Among sacred Jewish
texts, Perek Shirah is a pioneer when it comes to the
environment. It is a work of enormous lyricism and exaltation of the Creator,
including songs from the sun and the moon, Heaven and Earth, as well as from
various members of the plant and animal kingdoms. The praises found in this
book are like a great orchestra in which, instead of musicians, each element
and living being contributes to a beautiful and emotional masterpiece. That result
is the best possible exclamation of G-d’s greatness by all of His Creation.
It is extraordinary that of all
the different elements and creatures listed in Perek Shirah that
glorify the Creator, there are exactly fifty-two animals in Perek
Shirah, one for each week of the solar year.
In Judaism, as well as in many
other cultures, it is well known that humans can learn many important lessons
on how to behave by observing animals and nature. The Book of Job, for example,
teaches that we should learn how to glorify G-d by observing birds. The
Talmud teaches that “Had the Torah not been given, we would have learned to be
modest from cats, to avoid theft from ants, to avoid promiscuity from doves,
and derech eretz (proper conduct) from roosters.” The
Book of Proverbs advises those that are lazy to observe the ant. Despite the
fact that this animal has no supervisor, it collects its food in the summer and
stores it during the harvest season. In
a similar vein, in Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yehuda Ben Teima tell us to
be “bold like the leopard, swift like the eagle, fast like the deer, and
courageous like the lion, in order to fulfill the will of your Father in
It is quite often easier for a
person to learn character traits from animals because human beings are full of
paradoxes and internal conflicts, while animals have emotional attributes that
are strong and clear, without room for human subtleties. The fact that during
the omer we work on our emotional characteristics (our animal
qualities) is reflected in the omer offering itself, which was
made out of barley, an animal food. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the
process of self-analysis which begins on Passover and runs through the Counting
of the Omer, culminating on Shavuot, is parallel to the
kind of food related to each of these days. On Passover we eat matzah,
which involves total nullification of the ego; the omer, made of
animal food, reflects our struggle to improve our emotional/animal
characteristics; on Shavuot, once our character traits have been
refined, leavened bread is brought into the Temple for the first time.
When reading Perek Shirah, it is fascinating to
observe how the animals so gracefully praise and acknowledge G-d’s actions. If
animals glorify G-d in such a way, how much more so should we! Furthermore,
through each animal and its respective song, we extract examples and lessons on
how to help us heal and combat sadness.
How to Read This Blog
The blog can be read from beginning to end all at once, but its main purpose is to be experienced during each cycle. Along with the meaning of every Jewish month and the important dates of the Jewish calendar, the idea is to connect with the spiritual energy of the cycle through the paradigms listed in each book. While doing so, one should try to absorb and internalize the teachings found in them, in order to improve one’s daily conduct.
The 32 paths of wisdom can be experienced through cycles of 22 days, which parallel the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, culminating with the 22 days of the Three Weeks of Mourning, from the 17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av.
In order to succeed in this journey, the reader will benefit from one more ingredient: emunah. Emunah means faith in G-d. The Midrash states that the Sea of Reeds only split, allowing the Jewish people to cross, after Nachshon ben Aminadav threw himself into the water. At that time, we know that the Jewish People was completely cornered, seeing the Egyptian army approach on one side, and facing the deep waters of sea on the other. What was the way out? The Jewish people hesitated, and somewhat panicked, despite the great number of Divine miracles they saw upon being freed from Egypt. At this moment, without having second thoughts and believing firmly that everything would work out for the best, Nachshon jumped into the sea. When the waters were already entering his nostrils, the Sea of Reeds split and all of the Jewish people followed him. The Midrash explains that G-d wanted His people to act based on emunah.
- See the Rambam's Introduction to the Mishneh Torah, where he indeed provides a more detailed index.
- Bamidbar 12:2.
- Devarim 5:5.
- Shemot 33:11.
- Yoma 69b.
- Devarim 10:17.
- Yirmeyahu 32:18.
- Daniel 9:4.
- Hence, in the daily prayers which they instituted we say "the great, mighty, and awesome G-d," as Moshe did.
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