Tonight is our first Shabbas together counting the omer. Since Passover began on a Friday night, each week as we come together for kabbalat Shabbat we will count in multiples of 7, marking this time as we anticipate receiving the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot and preparing ourselves intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. In the kabbalistic way of counting, the 7th day is the day of malchut sh’b’chesed, the day on which we contemplate what is the foundation of our commitment to loving acts of kindness.
The ritual of counting the omer reminds us to make every day, every moment of our lives, count. It reminds us that our days are full of potential and opportunities for meaningful engagement. Rabbi Rami Shapiro tells the story of a special watch. It’s not an Apple watch, and it can do something even that miraculous timepiece cannot accomplish. The watch he writes of was designed and patented by David Kendrick, and he calls his invention a “Life Expectancy Timepiece.” After programming in all the data about your exercise, nutrition, life style, medical history and age, the watch computes your life expectancy and begins to count down to zero. Imagine how our days would be impacted if, with the flick of our wrist, we saw exactly how much time we have left on this earth?
Truly, we would be motivated to let go of the pettiness that keeps us apart from each other and engage in more acts of chesed. We would procrastinate less and act more. We would be highly focused on the present moment. And we would be motivated to change whatever stands in the way of becoming the people we want to be.
It is all too easy to take our days for granted, such an available temptation. Every time we say a blessing, we reinforce our sense of gratitude for the experiences which provide depth and meaning to our days. We have left Egypt, and yet, as Leonard Felder puts it, we continue to confine ourselves in “chronic mitzrayim,” an enslavement of our own making where we fail to create moments of mindfulness and appreciation, where we close our hearts to the ever present possibility of holiness in our lives. The essence of what it is to be a slave is to be denied the choice of how we spend our time. Until we allow ourselves to breathe in the present moment, we remain in Felder’s chronic mitzrayim. Through the ritual of counting the omer each day, we truly move from slavery to freedom.
Sue Monk Kidd describes it this way- “The Israelite slave represents a larval state of development. She lives an existence in which authentic parts of herself are imprisoned. The True Self isn’t yet liberated. . . she believes that Egypt is all there is.” It is only through the painful process, the terrible risk of change, the “story Red Sea crossing (and) a final letting go of old ways,” that she enters “the cocoon of the wilderness.” During this time of wandering, faith is tested and transformation becomes possible, culminating in a new self, founded in freedom and established by the holiness of choice.
Each day of sefirat haOmer offers us the opportunity to examine, to refine one aspect of our character, to renew our focus on the search for holiness, to embrace the potential of each moment. As we join in counting the 7th day of the omer, the day of malchut sh’b’chesed, may we be reminded to make loving acts of kindness the foundation of our relationships with friends, family, and community.
 Felder, Leonard, Here I Am, MA: Trumpeter Books, 2011, p. 31
 Kidd, Sue Monk, When The Heart Waits, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 2000, p. 79