On the second night of Pesach, while we are all still on a high from an uplifting Seder, we begin the fulfillment of another important annual mitzvah, the counting of the Omer. The next seven weeks, between the beginning of Pesach and Shavuot, are known in Jewish tradition as Sefirat HaOmer, which literally means counting of the Omer.
During this period which, during Temple times, commenced with the bringing of the Omer offering, we count each day in anticipation of the holiday of Shavuot and our annual re-acceptance of the Torah. The Omer is a very powerful and auspicious time for every one of us to focus on character development and become the proper vessels to be able to receive the Torah on Shavuot.
In Kabbalistic tradition, there are seven core character traits that are the roots of all other positive and negative character traits. By perfecting each one of these traits, we can genuinely live in the image of God and attain true inner wholeness. Each of these seven weeks presents a time to focus on one of these character traits and work on perfecting it and each day of the week gives us chance to work on each trait in relation to the trait of the week. So, by day 49, we have worked on several different combinations of traits and understood how they intersect. Each trait builds on the one before it, like laying a brick on the one beneath it, and by working on these character traits we create perfect balance in our lives.
The seven traits are:
Chessed (Loving-Kindness): Becoming a giver; giving for the sake of giving alone.
Gevurah (Discipline): Creating boundaries; saying no to yourself and to others even when it is difficult.
Tiferet (Harmony): Finding balance in life; searching for the true path of living; showing compassion.
Netzach (Dominance): Showing bravery and perseverance; not giving up; taking responsibility.
Hod (Splendor): Showing empathy to others; learning how to speak softly and listen.
Yesod (Foundation): Deep connection with others; Elevating all aspects of the mundane; sexual purity.
Malchus (Kingship): Leadership through powerful communication and expression.
The Seder and the mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer that immediately follows teach us an important lesson about change. The Seder is exciting, uplifting, animated and dynamic. Sefirat HaOmer is slow, consistent and systematic. We count every single day, one by one, focusing on a different aspect of our personality.
In order to improve ourselves we need both; exciting, motivational and inspirational moments when we feel like we can conquer the world, as well as a clear and steady plan of how we are going to implement that. If we rely solely on the excitement of those moments of inspiration, we are setting ourselves up for failure because those moments are, in fact, short-lived.
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