“SOMETHING IS HAPPENING AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS, DO YOU, MR. JONES?”
by Tzvi Fishman. Prolific author and filmmaker, Tzvi Fishman teaches at Yeshivat Machon Meir.
Like with all of the other commandments, Sefirat HaOmer is loaded with Kabbalistic significance. Without the Kabbalah, we would not know what we were doing when we wave the lulav or blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Yes, there are simple explanations, but someone who only familiarizes himself with surface, resembles a swimmer who is afraid to put on a mask and stick his face in the water. If you tell him there is a whole beautiful marine world below the waves, teeming with all forms of life, he won’t believe you because he has never experienced this deeper, inner world for himself.
To see and understand the hidden depths of the Torah you have to open your eyes and learn what lies under the surface.
When it comes to Sefirat HaOmer, look in your prayer books. At least in the prayer books in Israel, you will see adjacent to each day of the counting, two mystical words like Hesed of Hesed, Tiferet of Gevorah, or Hod of Tiferet. These words are from the Kabbalistic world of the Sefirot. Each day of the counting, we are called upon to rectify another sefirah, or channel of spiritual blessing. This is an integral part of the process of inner purification that we are to undergo as we approach the holiday of Shavuot. We are not only to mention the day, but also to undertake the detailed, laborious toil of perfecting our character traits and the channels of celestial blessing that are directly parallel to them. Just as a marionette puppet is connected to the hand above, or just like the keys of a piano are connected to the chords inside the piano’s lid, we are connected to universes of spiritual worlds which we don’t see but which exist all the same, influencing our lives in the profoundest ways.
Our words and actions strike Heavenly chords above. Each time a key is hit, a different sound is produced. So too, each time we improve a character trait, a channel of blessing is cleansed in the spiritual worlds above, releasing a flow of blessing upon us and upon the entire world since each individual is connected to the whole. If this inner process is just some Kabbalistic mumbo jumbo that doesn’t exist, as some unfortunate souls have the arrogance to claim, then why is it written in every serious prayer book, the following recitation:
“May it be Thy will before You, our L-rd, our G-d, G-d of our Forefathers, that in the merit of Sefirat HaOmer which I counted today, that all the damage I have done to the sefirah of (such and such day) will be rectified, and I will be purified and sanctified by the holiness of the upper world, and through this, a great flow of blessing will go forth to all of the spiritual and physical worlds, and will rectify our physical and emotional drives, our intellectual spirits, and our Divine souls from all of their pollutions and blemishes, and leave us sanctified with Your exalted holiness, Amen, Sela.”
Obviously, as the talented but confused Jew, Bob Dylan, used to sing: “SOMETHING IS HAPPENING AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS, DO YOU, MR. JONES?”
The question arises, with so many character traits needing correction and improvement on which one should a person concentrate. The Gaon of Vilna, in his commentary to the Book of Jonah (4:3) states that a person should focus on his behavior which is most consistently negative, such as anger, speaking badly about others, misplaced lust and the like. The transgression which a person most commits, the Gaon teaches, is the reason he or she was created, in order to rectify past reincarnations which were stained by that sin.
Tht’s on a personal level. On a national level, how can a person measure one’s connection to the Clal? My advice is to study the writings of Rabbi Kook. There is much more happening to the Nation of Israel in our time of Redemption beyond the daily problems and headlines. If you want to know what is really going on under the day-to-day surface events, Rabbi Kook provides the goggles you need to wear to see the total magnificence of Hashem’s Creation and His guiding hand in Jewish History. From the Exodus until today, His Divine Providence and interaction with Am Yisrael has never ceased.