If Passover is the Festival of Freedom, why are there so many rules and restrictions related to it? We don’t eat bread for 8 days and the Hebrew word used for the first nights of Passover is “seder” which literally means “order”!
Structure and discipline act as a containers for our freedom. Setting healthy boundaries help us achieve our goals.
Another structure associated with Passover is the 7-week period from the second night of the festival, till Shavuot. Just as the ancient Israelites counted 49 days till their crops ripened and till they would make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem with offerings of first fruits; so too we count the days and reflect on different aspects of our lives in order to ready ourselves for the festival of receiving Torah.
Each week we focus on a different aspect of our lives, in Hebrew, a middah, meaning a personal quality – hoping to improve ourselves and shine our light more brightly in the world. These qualities are seen as aspects of the divine that each person can tap into and develop in their own unique way. Starting on the second night of Passover:
Week 1 – Loving-Kindness – Chesed – asking ourselves how we can cultivate more kindness in our lives.
Week 2 – Strength and discipline – Gevurah – considering the routines in our lives, set new ones that will enhance joy and health and tweak routines that no longer serve us well.
Week 3 – The Beauty of Balance – Tiferet – reflecting on how to find harmony in the balance between giving and receiving.
Week 4 – Success and Perseverance – Netzach – creating a plan to reach our goals and setting them in motion.
Week 5 – Gratitude – Hod – making the time to give thanks for the help we receive.
Week 6 – Health and Vitality – Yesod – taking stock of our health and taking action to improve it.
Week 7 – Presence and Holiness – Malchut – considering how our inner light might shine more brightly to the world.
The blessing said each night of the omer is very telling. It states that we are “made holy” through this 7 week counting process. The structure and routine of the omer is an opportunity to build on the quality of freedom celebrated on the first night of Passover and develop it in a practical and holy way. This year I will be sending out regular emails with inspirations for the omer count. You are welcome to join, just email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive them.
Wishing you a joyous Passover,
Rabbi Dr. Orna Triguboff