Counting the Omer

May 22, 2024

By Kachel Kohnhorst

This year, I am counting the Omer. I have never counted it before. Counting the Omer is about preparing to receive the Torah. We move from a place of recounting and remembering (the Passover story) to learning and growth (receiving and studying Torah). 

I have heard for many years about counting the Omer. At the Jewish Summer camp that I attended, when the calendars aligned, we counted the Omer daily by saying the blessing and that was it. Counting the Omer this year, I wanted my 49 days to be more than saying a random Hebrew prayer that I did not pay much attention to, so I turned to a book called “The Omer a 49 Day Self-Care Immersion Workbook.”  I have studied sefirot (attributes of G-d) through many different modalities. I have stretched, I have written, I have drawn, I have listened to music, and I have connected with friends and family. These are all pretty typical ways Judaism has always manifested itself for me, but I have never thought of my Jewish practice as a practice of thoughtful self-care, rather more as a practice of mindless rhythmic calendar observance.

I have gone through times in my life when I have celebrated Shabbat every week, and times in my life when I have not thought about Shabbat one time in three years. I have fasted on Yom Kippur and accidentally broken Passover with a cupcake. But so far, every day, I have counted the Omer. For me, that connects to week two’s sefira: gevurah (discipline). 

I’ve been thinking a lot about week four’s  sefira: netzach (persistence). So far, I have been persistent in my pursuit of preparing to receive the Torah. The question that persistence brings up is: will I keep going? 

Pride month is starting in just over a week, and my travels for Pride are about to kick into high gear. I am preparing myself for a time of slight uprootedness, of a very different routine. But whether I am in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or Austin, I will have my new found (to me, but incredibly ancient) religious practice to ground me.

As the days get hotter, as my journey on this process gets longer and longer, will I have the persistence to stick it out—work through all the other sefirot: hod (simplicity), yesod (grounding), and malchut (nobility) I hope I can do it because at the end of my 49 days of self-preparation and self-care, I am gathering my friends in my Houston apartment, where we are going to eat cheese-filled products like there is no tomorrow, and we are going to study Torah. I haven’t quite figured out what we are going to study yet, but if we use our time together to think about our relationships, or our internal sense of self, or our duty to our community, then I think we will have at least begun to study some of the essential topics discussed in our holy book. 

I didn’t know there was a new Jewish ritual waiting for me. But here I am, counting the Omer and bringing my friends and family along with me on this journey. I encourage you to continue learning about Jewish rituals if you are needing a bit more yesod in your life. 

Blessing to Count the Omer:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al s’firat ha-Omer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who sanctifies us with mitzvot, and commands us concerning the counting of the Omer.