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Home » Days of Omer, Emor

Emor: Making Space for G-d

Submitted by on May 11, 2019 – 10:45 pmNo Comment | 255 views

Making space for G-d is the name of the game during the season of the Omer. There are forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot, and we enjoy and savor them all. We count each day as if it were a precious jewel as we prepare for the festival of Shavuot. We count down to Shavuot with excitement and anticipation the way we used to count down the days to our birthday when we were children.

But it is much more than counting. It is also preparing. Counting the Omer is about making room for G-d. Shavuot is the day that G-d descended upon Mount Sinai and introduced Himself to us. Hello, said G-d, I am G-d, and I am the one who took you out of Egypt. Before G-d came calling, we had to make space for Him. It wouldn’t do to have G-d come into a cluttered home.

How do we go about making space for G-d? We reduce our ego. If our home fills up with ego, there will be no room in our home for anyone else, let alone G-d. By taking our ego out of the equation, in full or in part, we are making space for G-d.

So how does counting the Omer accomplish this?

Emotional Associations
Each day, after we count the Omer, we read a short prayer that references one of forty-nine emotional attributes. As we read about the day’s attribute, we pause to reflect on its purpose and its proper mode of use. There are seven primary emotions, and each of these seven is composed of aspects of the other seven. That means that all seven emotions share the same components, but a different component is dominant in each.

The seven attributes are kindness, sternness, compassion, endurance, acceptance, bonding, and sharing. Let’s talk kindness. A kind person gives generously, but a kind person can also be stern. For example, a parent who withholds candy from a child with decaying teeth, does the child a kindness.

Kindness also entails compassion. Suppose you want to share your thesis with your spouse because you are kind and want your spouse to know everything you know. Yet, you realize that your thesis would bore your spouse, so you compassionately decide against sharing the thesis. That is a kind thing to do and it is borne of compassion.

Kindness entails endurance. Suppose you give a cup of coffee to a poor homeless person each morning, and he takes it and throws it in your face. Yet, you continue to give the fellow a cup every day until you wear him down. Touched by your kindness, he finally accepts. That is endurance in kindness.

Kindness entails acceptance. Suppose that after he threw away your coffee you asked him why he threw it away. Suppose he explained that he has too much dignity to accept a handout and he doesn’t like being made to feel like a beggar. Your heart yearns to help him, yet you accept that the best way to help him is to respect him. That is acceptance in kindness.

There is bonding in kindness. Suppose the man accepts your coffee every day and over time he asks your name. You start sharing details about your life and you discover a little about his. You develop a friendship and take him out to coffee one day, to dinner the next day, and finally invite him to your home. Before long you are bonded in friendship. That is bonding in kindness.

Finally, there is sharing in kindness. Suppose you share so generously that he is moved to pay it forward and share what he has with others. You have not only shared a kindness with him, you have also taught him how to be kind. By being kind yourself, you have left an impact and influenced him for the better. That is sharing your kindness.

Perfecting My Emotions
Now kind people are primarily interested in being kind. They get a thrill out of giving and that is all they want to do. If they were self-centered and cared only about satisfying their whims, they would give generously to all including the child with decaying teeth and the man who prefers his dignity.

As we make our way through the first week of the Omer, we stop each day and ponder the aspect of kindness related to that day. I know I can be kind, but can I be stern in kindness? Can I take away my friend’s money before he enters the casino and withhold it even if he demands it from me? Can I be stern in kindness?

My nature is to not only give him his money but to throw some of my money into his pocket too. But that would be selfish, not kind. Am I capable of being humble in kindness? Do I know how to be kind to others, not only to myself? I want to give, that would make me feel good. My friend needs me to withhold, that is the kindness he needs in that moment. Can I be kind unselfishly?

If I can’t, I know the work that is cut out for me on this day. I need to perfect my ability to be kind selflessly. I need to work on being stern in kindness even if that doesn’t come easily to me. My emotional attributes are not intended to serve me, to make me feel better. They are intended to serve others, to make others feel better.

Making Space for G-d
This is the process of pairing down my ego and making space for G-d. If I am so filled with myself that I will do what is wrong for another only to make me feel good, there is no room for others or for G-d in my heart. By recognizing that it is not enough to have emotions that come naturally and easily to me, but that I must also develop emotional attributes that don’t come easily to me, I learn to make space for others.

It teaches me that I am not just for me, that there is more to the world than my own interests. Others also exist and I must make space for them. I do this repeatedly each night with a different aspect of my emotional spectrum and by the time I arrive to Shavuot forty-nine days later, I am exhausted, but I feel much lighter. I have lost hundreds of pounds of ego. I have been giving up my space and have been making space for G-d.

With G-d
When G-d shows up on Shavuot, He finds a heart and soul that is willing to accept Him. Anything He wants, He needs only to ask. We will do and we will listen. Whether it is consistent with my natural disposition, or not, whether it comes easily to me, or not, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that I have learned an important lesson. By setting myself aside, I have become much better. By allowing myself to be smaller, I have become much bigger. I have become part of G-d. A servant of the Divine.

That is Shavuot. And that is why we get forty-nine days to prepare. After making space for G-d for forty-nine consecutive G-d, we will have removed the clutter and G-d will find space in our home. Indeed, Jewish mystics taught that each day is meant to bring us closer to G-d. That is why yom, the Hebrew word for day, has the same numeric value as, el hashem, the Hebrew words for [closer] to G-d.[1]

 

[1] This essay is based on Or Hatorah, Vayikra, pp. 584-588.

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