Table of Contents:
Week 2: To Relate Well to Others and to Our Own Body
Week 3: To Be Happy, Balanced, and Secure in G-d
Week 4: To Take Responsibility for All, Yet Protecting Oneself from Bad Influences
Week 5: To Use All Tools Available in order to Elevate the World
Week 6: To Impact the World, Laying a Foundation for Future Generations
Week 7: To Recognize and Reveal the Divine Presence within Us and the World
Week 8: Not to Lose Focus on our Spirituality and Relationship with G-d
Week 9: Fighting Darkness with Light
Week 10: To Trust in G-d’s Mercy
Week 11: Fighting Evil and Heresy, Yet Knowing How to Forgive
Week 12: Revealing Warmth to Those that Are Cold and Indifferent
Week 13: To Publicize Miracles with Pride and Humility
Week 14: To Believe in Our Own Strength, which Comes from G-d
Week 15: Giving Proper Value to Torah and to the Presence of the Shechinah
Week 16: To Use Adversity as a Way to Grow, Relying on G-d for Support
Week 17 (From the Book): To Pay Attention to G-d’s Guidance and to Trust in Our Redemption
Week 18 (From the Book): To Live in Harmony with Nature in a Manner that is Above Nature
Week 19 (From the Book): To Feel that G-d is Close Even When He Seems Far Away
Week 20 (From the Book): To Be Solid and Giving in Our Relationships
Week 21 (From the Book): To Keep Things in Perspective
Week 22 (From the Book): To Complement Each Other in Happiness
Week 23 (From the Book): To Be Happy Even Without Knowing Why Things Are the Way They Are
Week 24 : To Live Above Our Worldly Concerns
Week 25: To Have Self-Sacrifice in order to Fulfill Our Mission in Life
Week 26: To Be Humble and Let G-d Guide Us
Week 27: To Purify Ourselves in order to Change
Week 28: To Recognize our Limits in order to Free Ourselves from Them
Week 29 (From the Book): After the Initial Inspiration, To Get to Work
Week 30: To Know that the World Needs More Love and Respect
Week 31: To Be Proud of Our Humble Connection with G-d
Week 32: To Recognize Deep in Our Heart How Small We Are, How Great G-d Is
Week 33: To Recognize the Spiritual Treasures Hidden within Each One of Us
Week 44 (From the Book): To Recognize Our Mistakes and Change
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 your Healer.”
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. (See Calendar)
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 Heaven.”
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.
Important dates taking place in week of year
Important date during omer count and time of day
Animal in Perek Shirah
Rabbi in Pirkei Avot and thrust of his teaching
Netz Hachamah (sunrise)
Rooster, (Introduction and 7 verses) (first bird)
Introduction and 14 rabbis (7 pairs) – acquiring a master.
Shimon ben Raban Gamliel – “silence” of the body
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel – justice, truth and peace
Rabbi Yehudah HaNassí – an eye that sees, and Ear that hears, and all your deeds are written in a Book
Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan
Rabban Gamliel ben Rabbi Yehudah HaNassí - combine Torah study with work
First Week of Cheshvan
(Potential 3rd Temple Holiday)
Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai – an individual that learned much Torah should not feel that he or she deserves special recognition
Second Week of Cheshvan
Seventh day of Pessach
Rabbi Eliezer – the honor of your neighbor should be as precious in your eyes as your own, and do not become easily irritated
Third Week of Cheshvan
Last Day of Pessach
Rabbi Yehoshua – an evil eye, an evil inclination, and hatred of one’s fellow takes a man out of this world
Fourth Week of Cheshvan or Rosh Chodesh Kislev
Latest time to recite the Shemah
Rabbi Yossi – the possessions of your neighbor should be as dear to you as your own
Rosh Chodesh Kislev or 1st week
Rabbi Shimon – be careful in reciting the Shemah and the Shmoneh Esreh. Do not make of your prayer a routine act
Erev Yom HaShoah
Latest proper time to recite the Shmoneh Esreh
Rabbi Elazar – know what to answer the heretic and be diligent in your Torah study.
Yud Tet Kislev
Rabbi Tarfon – the day is short, the work is great, the workers are lazy, the reward is big, and the Owner is pressing.
Akaviah ben Mahalalel – know from where you come and to where you are going, and before Whom you will be judged.
Chanukah/Rosh Chodesh Tevet
Erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar
Rabbi Chaninah, Segan Kohen Gadol – pray for the welfare of the government, for if it were not for the fear of it…
10th of Teveth
Rosh Chodesh Iyar
Rabbi Chaninah ben Teradion – if two people are sitting together and do not exchange words of Torah…
Third Week of Tevet
Rosh Chodesh Iyar
Rabbi Shimon [Bar Yochai] – Three people that ate together and did not say words of Torah…
Fourth Week of Tevet
Chatzot (midday – latest time for morning prayers
Rabbi Chaninah ben Chachinai – one who is awake at night or travels on the road, and turns his heart to idleness…
Rosh Chodesh Shvat
Minchah Gedolah (earliest time for Minchah)
Grasshopper (first insect)
Rabbi Nechuniah – one who takes upon oneself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of making a living and of government are removed from him
Rabbi Chalaftah – ten men that are gathered and occupy themselves in Torah...
Rabbi Elazar de Bartota – give to Him what is His, for you and all that is yours is His.
Fourth Week of Shvat
Rabbi Yaakov – whoever is travelling on the road while studying and interrupts to exclaim how beautiful is this tree…
Rosh Chodesh Adar
Rabbi Dostai, ben Yanai – one who forgets their Torah knowledge…
First Week of Adar
Rabbi Chaninah ben Dossah – one whose fear of sin is greater than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure…
Rabbi Dossah ben Harkinas – the sleep of the morning, wine of the afternoon, the talk of children, and meeting places of the ignorant…
Third Week of Adar
Rabbi Elazar, the Modahite – one who profanes sacred objects, degrades the festivals, humiliates other in public…
Rosh Chodesh Nissan
Sheep and Goat (first farm animal)
Rabbi Yishmael – be submissive to the head, and courteous to the young, and receive every person with joy.
First Week of Nissan
Rabbi Akiva – jest and frivolity accustom a person to lust… everything is prepared for the banquet
First Day of Pessach
Erev Pessach Sheni
Pig and Rabbit
Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah – without Torah there is no common decency... without flour there is no Torah…
Beast of Burden
(first animal used for carrying)
Rabbi Elazar ben Chismah – the laws of bird sacrifices and menstrual periods are essential…
Fourth Week of Nissan
Ben Zomah – Who is wise? One that learns from everyone
Rosh Chodesh Iyar/ 5 de Iyar
Ben Azai – run to pursue a mitzvah, and flee from transgression. A mitzvah attracts another mitzvah...
Second Week of Iyar
Rabbi Levitas of Yavneh – be extremely humble, because the hope of mortal man is worms...
Pessach Sheini/ Lag Ba’Omer
Rabbi Yochanan ben Berokah – whoever profanes the Divine Name in secret will be punished in public...
Fourth Week of Iyar
Tzeit Hakochovim (nightfall)
Ox (last farm animal, and last animal used for carrying)
Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yossi – one who studies Torah in order to teach is given the opportunity to learn and teach; one that studies Torah in order to practice…
Rosh Chodesh Sivan/ Yom Yerushalayim
Rabbi Tzadok – do not separate yourself from the community… do not make the Torah into a crown to glorify yourself
Rabbi Yossi – one that honors the Torah will be honored by men…
Third Week of Sivan
Rabbi Yishmael – one who refrains from serving as a judge avoid hatred, theft and false oaths.
Fourth Week of Sivan
Rabbi Yonatan – whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty will ultimately fulfill it in wealth...
Rosh Chodesh Tammuz/ 3rd of Tammuz
Rabbi Meir – engage minimally in business, and occupy yourself with Torah...
Second Week of Tammuz
Rabbi Eliezer – one who fulfills one mitzvah acquires an advocate for himself...
12th and 13th of Tammuz/ 17th of Tammuz
Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar – every gathering that is for the sake of Heaven will endure…
Fourth Week of Tammuz
Erev Yom Yerushalayim
Rabbi Eliezer ben Shammuah – the honor of your student should be as precious to you as your own…
Rosh Chodesh Av
Rabbi Yehudah – be careful in your studies, for an error in learning it tantamount to a willful sin.
Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan
End of the first watch of the night
(last house animal)
Rabbi Nehorai – exile yourself to a place of Torah; do not say that it will come after you… rely not on your own understanding.
Rosh Chodesh Sivan
Rabbi Yanai – we cannot comprehend the tranquility of the wicked or the suffering of the righteous...
Third Week of Av
Prolific Creeping Creatures
Rabbi Matiah ben Charash – be first to greet every man. Be a tail to lions, rather than a head to foxes.
Rosh Chodesh Elul
Rabbi Yaakov – this world is like an antechamber for the World to Come...
First Week of Elul
Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar – do not attempt to appease your friend at the moment of his anger…
Second Week of Elul
Shmuel the Small – when your enemy falls, do not rejoice...
Elishah ben Avuyah – one who learns Torah in his childhood, to what is he compared? To ink on fresh paper…
Shavuot - Chochmah
Fourth Week of Elul/Slichot
Rabbi Yossi ben Yehudah of Kfar Bavli – one who learns Torah from youngsters…
Shavuot – Binah
Isru Chag/Pessach Chatzot (midnight)
Rabbi Elazar HaKappar – envy, lust, and honor take a man out of the world… Those who are born will die, and the dead will live [again]…
Shavuot – Da’at/Keter
Before Purim, there is a day of fasting, Ta'anit Esther. Before Yom Ha'Atzmaut there is also a solemn day, Yom HaZikaron, the day they remember the soldiers who died in recent wars, as well as victims of terrorism. Ta'anit Esther also commemorates the Jewish people's fast before they went to war against their enemies at the time.