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Sefirat HaomerIyarmain postsShavu'ot

Kavanot for the Seventh Week of Sefirat HaOmer

We are now entering the final week of Sefirat Ha’omer (the Counting of the Omer), the final week before Shavu’ot—the Giving of the Torah.

As we all know, there are many different kavanot, or intentions for understanding what each of the seven weeks of the Omer corresponds to. The clearest and best known such kavanah is that they correspond to the seven emotional sefirot of the heart: loving-kindness, might, beauty, victory, acknowledgment, foundation, and kingdom, or in Hebrew: chessed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchut. Each week is one of the seven attributes, and on each day of the week, the attributes inter-include. Thus, the first day of the Omer corresponds to the loving-kindness within loving-kindness (chessed shebachessed), which is the specific emotional trait that we work on during that day, and so on.

During the second week, we concentrate on the sefirah of might, which is related to awe [of Heaven]. The third week is devoted to beauty, or compassion. For the duration of the fourth week, we concentrate on active confidence in God, the inner experience of the sefirah of victory.[1] Our focus in the fifth week is to walk earnestly (with temimut) with God, the inner experience of the sefirah of acknowledgment.

The sixth week is the week of foundation whose inner experience reveals the ability to pursue “truth,” which in this context, in Chasidic thought, manifests as fulfilling ourselves and realizing our potential. In this sense, we manifest our true self—the “truth” of our mission in life.

Finally, the seventh week focuses on the sefirah of kingdom whose inner experience is the sense of lowliness—recognizing that all the good in our lives is God’s Presence in our lives. As explained in length elsewhere, the attribute of kingdom or sovereignty means that the king’s external disposition should radiate his being above the people, but internally, in his heart, he feels that he is the lowest of all. That allows him to receive the inspiration to lead the people in the right way.

The Seven Weeks and the Seven Days of Creation

Now, a new correspondence we have introduced for the kavanot of the days of the Counting of the Omer is that the seven weeks also correspond to the seven days of creation. This way of understanding the days of each week in the Omer is especially relevant when the weeks of the Omer complete on a Shabbat,[2] in which case they are designated as truly “temimot,” meaning, truly consummate. Still, this way of understanding the days of the Omer is relevant every year.

The whole first week corresponds to the first day of creation. The main creation on the first day was clearly light. The second week corresponds to the second day of creation, when God created the firmament to divide between the higher and lower waters. The third week corresponds to the third day of creation with the creation of plant-life. The fourth week corresponds to the fourth day and the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. The fifth week corresponds to the fifth day when God created the first animal-life: fish and birds. The sixth week corresponds to the sixth day, which included the creation of the rest of the animal kingdom, but clearly, its focus is the creation of man. Obviously then the seventh week corresponds to Shabbat, the seventh day. On Shabbat, all the creative power that went into Creation returns to its source and the experience is one of rest.

To corresponds each of the 49 days of the Counting of the Omer to a certain aspect of creation, we need to exercise inter-inclusion between the essences of each of the days. What we want to do now is to look at the seven days of the seventh week. The entire seventh week will focus on rest, which leads us to receive the Torah out of a sense of ease.

Now we are starting the seventh week and let us try to understand the meaning of each of the days of this week as it is relative to the Shabbat. Every day is about the rest of Shabbat. The whole week is about entering a state of tranquility, of rest. Then we can receive the Torah in a consummate state of rest.

The Light of Rest

The first day of the seventh week is the 43rd day of the Counting of the Omer is about the light within rest. In fact, the value of the word for “light” (אוֹר) in Hebrew is 207 and the value of “Shabbat” (שַׁבָּת) is 702—so the two are permutations of one another. We explained above that on Shabbat the light (i.e., the revelation) of the power of creation that God revealed during the first six days of creation, returned to its source. Thus, the light returned to a state of “rest.” Similarly, when a person attains a state of lowliness, he is in his lowest possible energy state, and so he is at rest. This definition is taken from physics, which defines the lowest possible energy level as a state of “rest.”

The idea we need to contemplate on the 43rd day of the Omer is that before Creation began there was a primordial state of Shabbat, which was also a state of primordial rest. When Creation began, the light of the first day of creation suddenly emerged out of the primordial darkness (the relative state of primordial rest). In that sense, the first day of creation created a dichotomy between the primordial darkness and the primordial light that had just emerged or been created. Light became a separate entity. But, on Shabbat, everything returns to its origin, thus the primordial light (which has already been revealed) re-unites with the primordial darkness, and as a result, the primordial darkness and the darkness itself are revealed and become light. What we thought was dark and black is a beautiful, perfect light. This is the experience of light that we have on Shabbat, and it can be especially felt on Friday night with its special liturgy (Kabbalat Shabbat), and special feast with songs and melodies. It is on the eve of Shabbat that we feel that the Shabbat unites the opposites. That is the rectification (tikkun) of the first day of the seventh week of the Counting of the Omer.

This provides us with a beautiful way to understand the relationship between the inner quality of the sefirah of kingdom, which we said above is lowliness, and the experience of Shabbat, which is rest and tranquility.

The Firmament of Rest

Moving on to the second day when the firmament that divides the higher and lower waters from one another was created: Water in general is considered the source of all forms and types of pleasure in the soul[3] (מַיִם מַצְמִיחִים כָּל מִינֵי תַּעֲנוּג). However, more specifically, the higher waters and the lower waters represent Divine pleasure versus mundane pleasures. The higher waters are experiencing and receiving pleasure from Divinity, which means experiencing Divine Providence and God’s Presence in life. When one experiences the “higher waters,” life becomes full of pleasure. It is possible to experience this with every breath that we take, feeling that all is under personal Providence. This is the simplest way to understand Divine pleasure.

The lower waters are the physical pleasures a person feels when he is unaware of the Divine. By pursuing the material world alone and not knowing that in fact the entire material world is Divine, the individual causes a separation between the material, physical realm, and the soul and source of the world.

What happens on Shabbat? On Shabbat, it is a mitzvah to enjoy physical pleasures. This is known as Oneg Shabbat (עֹנֶג שַׁבָּת). On Shabbat, one should eat well and know that all of one’s physical pleasures are Divine; it is all Divine pleasure. The severing between the higher and lower waters is healed and united on Shabbat. That is the significance of rest and tranquility we should experience on the 44th day of the Omer, the second day of the seventh week of Counting the Omer. The firmament that normally divides reveals its inner essence, which is not to sever and separate, but to connect and unite. The second day is then the experience of unification of higher Divine pleasure and lower mundane reality and pleasure. The world returns to a state of “waters within waters”[4] in a positive sense.

The Vegetation of Rest

The third day of the seventh week of the Omer is Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the 45th day of the Omer. 45 is the value of “man” (אָדָם). It is an important number in Kabbalah since it is the value of the filling of God’s Name, Havayah known as mah (יוד הא ואו הא). This is the day on which historically we came to the Wilderness of Sinai, where we received the Torah, as one, and with one heart. On the third day of creation, vegetation was created, the trees and the grass—all that is in the vegetable kingdom. What is the Shabbat aspect with respect to the vegetation?

The sages explain that initially, God intended for the taste of the wood and bark of the tree and the taste of the fruit to be identical[5] (טַעַם עֵצוֹ כַּטַּעַם פִּרְיוֹ). But, on the third day of creation, the earth was unable—as if the earth has some consciousness and power of choice to it—to create what God had intended and instead produced trees whose bark tasted different from their fruit. Every Shabbat we experience something of the World to Come. Shabbat is described as, “similar to the World to Come”[6] (מֵעֵין עוֹלָם הַבָּא). The state of rest on Shabbat causes the bark and the fruit to unite. Instead of severing, things return to their source and unite.

What does the unification of the bark and the fruit in the manner that both will have the same taste mean in our service of God? The Torah has 613 commandments. They are represented by the fruit. Each of the commandments is a sweet fruit. The bark represents all the mundane activities that we perform. There is a verse that states that “You should know God in all your ways”[7] (בְּכָל דְּרָכֶיךָ דָּעֵהוּ). In all the mundane actions of life, we should unite and be one with God. If we can unite with God in all that we do, then every step we take, going to work in the morning, etc.—the taste of the bark—becomes identical to a mitzvah, to a commandment that we perform because God commanded us: the bark then has the taste of the fruit. When this happens, we have mirrored the fruit in the bark and tasted the essence of the Shabbat’s rest. One can experience this state of unification only through the state of rest found in the Shabbat.

The Heavenly Luminaries in Rest: Equality and Unity of the Luminaries

On the fourth day of creation God created the sun and the moon and the stars—the luminaries. And on the fourth day of the seventh week, on the 46th day of Sefirat Ha’omer, we reveal the state of unification in these. Like we said regarding the third day and the distinction between the taste of the bark and the taste of the fruit, here too, on the fourth day, God intended that the sun and the moon—the masculine luminary and the feminine luminary—should be identical. But the moon asked, “How can two kings use one crown?” God answered, “Very well then, diminish yourself.”[8] That made the moon smaller than the sun and made it into a receptacle for the sun’s light, allowing it only to reflect the sun’s light. However, the initial intent was that the sun and the moon be identical.

What do the luminaries represent in our Divine work? They symbolize our ability to be a luminary ourselves—i.e., to be a light. The light that was created on the first day represents what we call, “light that illuminates the self” (אוֹר הַמֵּאִיר לְעַצְמוֹ). What we learn to enlighten ourselves constitutes this type of light. But the light that was created on the fourth day is the “light that illuminates others” (אוֹר הַמֵּאִיר לְזוּלָתוֹ). It is this light that we are meant to use to teach and affect others. It also includes our role and duty to be “a light unto the nations.”[9]

What does the differentiation created between the sun and the moon represent? The sun and the moon are like a teacher and a student. In the present state of reality, there is one teacher, one luminary who is the sun. The sages describe this with the statement that “the face of Moses is like the face of the sun, but the face of Joshua [his student] is like the face of the moon.”[10] Everything that Joshua received was seen on his face as reflected light from his teacher, Moses.

But, when Mashiach comes, immediately, in our days, it is said that this will no longer be the case. Rather, the teacher and the student will be one, they will be on the same level. The two will use a single crown.[11] As the prophet says, “They will no longer teach one another to know Me [God], for they will all know Me, from their smallest to their greatest.”[12] No longer will one person say to another, “Teach me.” All souls will directly experience God. We will all be students of God Himself[13] (לִמּוּדֵי הוי') and we will all teach what we know. Each of us has a unique soul root that will reveal itself and each person will teach from his soul root. In that way, we will all be the same and we will unify through these teachings that we teach one another.

That is the rest and tranquility of Shabbat that takes the creation of the luminaries back to their source. Indeed, there is another level of unification here that we already mentioned in regard to the first day of creation. The sun is the day and the moon is the night and their unification also symbolizes the unification of day and night, just as light and darkness will unite. This is the kavanah associated with the 46th day of the Omer.

The Movement of Rest

On the fifth day the animals were created. In English and in Hebrew the word “animal” is related to motion or animation. In Hebrew the Jewish philosophers said that “All that is alive, moves”[14] (כָּל חַי מִתְנוֹעֵעַ). Movement is also pulse, the dual movement called “run and return,” which is the essence of the life force. An animal sees something in front of it and wants to reach it and it moves there. That is the difference of course between the animals and the vegetables and inanimate parts of creation.

The origin of the property of movement is in the consciousness, in the thought process. Thought is always on the move. The expression is, “thought is always wandering,” from one state to another. We might think that thought is a property of man alone, but that is not the case. Thinking is a function available to the entire animal kingdom. On the fifth day of creation the two life forms that were created were the fish and the birds. What do they have in common? Both glide through their mediums. The fish swims in the water and the bird flies in the air. In fact, in Hebrew, there is a verb whose meaning is both to fly through the air and to swim through the water: לָשׁוּט. Amazingly, this is the same verb that we just quoted regarding thought, “thought is always wandering”[15] (הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה מְשׁוֹטֶטֶת תָּמִיד). Wandering is לָשׁוּט as well. If you want to reach a destination, then you have thought. Then you also have an experience of time because you are saying, “Now, I am here. But I want to be there in a few moments,” as Moses said at the Burning Bush, “I will go from here to there”[16] in order to see the great miracle of the bush not being consumed.

The deeper meaning of the fifth day is thus movement within thought and physical movement. All this movement on Shabbat takes place in a state of rest, which is the opposite of movement. But a person can move naturally, flowing naturally with tranquility and rest. So even though he may not be moving in space, he is moving in thought. In fact, moving in thought means that on Shabbat you can move faster. To move in a state of perfect rest is the inner intent of the fifth day of the seventh week of the Counting of the Omer.

Man at Rest: Singing the Torah’s Song

We said that thought is not the unique attribute associated with man. Mankind’s special attribute is speech, which represents communication—expressing myself to another for the sake of unification. In Hebrew, to speak also means to unify in a physical sense, like between a husband and wife. There is some primal form of communication between other animals, but essential communication is unique to man. There is an explicit verse in the Torah that “man became a living soul,”[17] which Onkelos, the Torah’s Aramaic translation renders, “man became a speaking spirit.”

The Talmud states[18] that the sages hardly permitted us to speak on Shabbat—even words of Torah. This is because we must emulate God who rested on Shabbat from the Ten Utterances of creation. Thus, Shabbat is a day for singing—specifically for melodies without words. Song without words is the secret of the cantillation notes of the Torah—the Torah’s song—which are described as emerging “from His Great Name,” the light of the infinite that preceded the first contraction and was drawn into the supernal wisdom of the World of Emanation.[19] Singing is a tranquil state of speech, of communication. So even though it was difficult for the sages to allow us to speak even words of Torah, they did allow it. Yet, the high point of Shabbat, which is meant to focus on learning the Torah’s secrets, is the third meal, which most people dedicate to singing. The rest of Shabbat means that whatever you do is without effort, it is natural.

The Rest Within Rest

Now we come to the seventh day of the seventh week, the 49th day of the Omer, the rest of rest, the Shabbat aspect of the seventh day of creation, which was Shabbat. Sometimes a person rests because he is very tired, and he needs to make an effort to rest. But the “rest within rest” indicates an effortless state of rest, whereby all the states of creation represented by the seven days of the week and the seven faculties of the heart, become effortless. We call this “natural consciousness.”[20] The perfect natural flow of consciousness. When we attain this state, we are ready to receive the Torah, which is the performing of God’s will in a state of rest and tranquility.

May we all merit to receive the Torah anew this Shavu’ot, to receive the Torah from the mouth of Mashiach himself, who will teach us a new level of Torah. He will teach us how to connect to our soul root so that there will no longer be a need for anyone to teach others about God.

Once again, may we all have a chag same’ach and a receiving of the Torah, an internalization of it with joy and internally.

 

Excerpted from a private communication from the 28th of Iyar, 5781

[1]. See in length Emunah VeBitachon in Lev Lada’at.

[2]. This happens in a year that the first day of Passover is on Shabbat.

[3]. Sha’arei Kedushah 1:2. Tanya, ch. 1.

[4]. Bereishit Rabbah 5:2 and elsewhere. See also Sod HaShem LiYerei’av, Sha’ar Mekor Mayim Chaim (specifically chs. 5 and 12).

[5]. Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 3:5.

[6]. Berachot 57b.

[7]. Proverbs 3:6.

[8]. Chullin 60b.

[9]. Abravanel on Isaiah 59, following Ibid. 59:6, and also Ibid. 42:6.

[10]. Bava Batra 75a.

[11]. See Eitz Chaim 36:1-2. Likkutei Torah Shir HaShirim 48b.

[12]. Jeremiah 31:33.

[13]. Isaiah 54:13.

[14]. End of Rabbi Avraham Abulafia’s Mafte’ach HaRaayon (letter Tav).

[15]. Ma’amarei Admur Hazaken 5569, s.v. Zachor Et Yom HaShabbat Lekadsho and elsewhere.

[16]. See Rashi to Exodus 3:3.

[17]. Genesis 2:7.

[18]. Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 15:3.

[19]. See Likkutei Torah Shir HaShirim 1c and ff.

[20]. A topic discussed in length in our Hebrew volumes, Muda’ut Tivit and HaTeva HaYehudi.

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