Rabbi Jamie’s Corner
At Hebrew Free Loan, we applaud and assist intentional change.
As I write this, Passover is behind us, and the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the receiving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, is coming up in early June. The two holidays are connected by a spiritual practice known as “Counting the Omer.”
In biblical times, Shavuot was a rite marking the spring agricultural season. Each day from Passover to Shavuot, there was a verbal counting of the harvest period. Over time the idea developed that each day of this counting carried one a step further away from a slave mentality toward a more liberated frame of mind. Each of the 49 days is viewed as an opportunity to explore specific pairs of attributes leading to personal growth and spiritual refinement.
This year I’ve been counting the omer religiously (not a word I use lightly). Growing up, counting the omer wasn’t a ritual my family observed. I only began to explore it while I was a rabbinical student. But now I understand that rather than being an obscure practice that’s best forgotten, counting the omer offers a powerful tool for intentional, incremental personal change.
Whether it’s coincidence or providence, something is shifting in my personal life, the slow unfolding of which parallels the 49 days. A few weeks before Passover, one of my sons who had been living with us abruptly moved to Boise, where cheaper housing and opportunities to explore a new frontier beckoned. Each day, it becomes more evident that he is not going to move back. This growing realization is both painful and empowering.
My son and I have always been exceedingly close, and I feel a void without him nearby, but it was time for him to strike out on his own. Last weekend, I reclaimed the space that was his bedroom and painted his bathroom yellow. These new developments are all for the good, but the changes aren’t immediate, and the process isn’t always easy.
I didn’t plan it this way but counting the omer is helping me to adjust to this change. The omer counting tool I chose sends daily inspiration tied to the spiritual attributes of the particular day. Some days there is beautiful music, others there is poetry. Little by little, step by step, I am allowing myself to be gently guided toward acceptance of the changes in my son’s life and in our relationship. The gradual process builds day by day, gaining strength along the way.
Intentional change takes vision, perseverance, and the courage to begin. At Hebrew Free Loan, we encourage and assist people who come to us with a goal of making change. Our loans facilitate people’s intentions to create change in their lives by going to school, launching a business, turning over a new financial leaf, or starting a family. We love the opportunity to partner with them to take the first steps to realize their goal. But, as the counting of the omer reminds us, our loans are just one step, which must be followed by many more, if peoples’ dreams for the future are to become the reality of the present.
The blessing for the recitation of the omer begins “Here I am, ready and prepared to count the omer.” Here’s to the journey and setting off on the path toward the futures we each want to build.
Rabbi Jamie Hyams, our Development Director, received her rabbinic ordination in 2021 from the Academy for Jewish Religion | CA. We’ve asked Rabbi Jamie to occasionally share her perspective with our community. Jamie can be reached for questions, comments, or further dialogue at email@example.com.