In remembrance of the tragic death of Rabbi Akiva's disciples who died in a plague in the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, several mourning practices are observed during this period: no marriages are conducted during this time, and like mourners, we don't cut our hair or enjoy the sound of music. Customs vary as to the proscribed activities and the dates during which the mourning is observed; consult your rabbi as to the traditions followed by your community.
Tomorrow is the ninth day of the Omer Count. Since, on the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall of the previous evening, we count the omer for tomorrow's date tonight, after nightfall: "Today is nine days, which are one week and two days, to the Omer." (If you miss the count tonight, you can count the omer all day tomorrow, but without the preceding blessing).
The 49-day "Counting of the Omer" retraces our ancestors' seven-week spiritual journey from the Exodus to Sinai. Each evening we recite a special blessing and count the days and weeks that have passed since the Omer; the 50th day is Shavuot, the festival celebrating the Giving of the Torah at Sinai.
Tonight's Sefirah:Gevurah sheb'Gevurah-- "Restraint in Restraint"
The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine Attributes" -- Sefirot -- that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut ("Love", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Splendor", "Foundation" and "Sovereignty"). In the human being, created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness. Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one the forty-nine "sefirot."
The paradigm of all obstacles is the Sea of Reeds. Only six days earlier the children of Israel had fled their slavery, but now an impasse stood before them, with Pharaoh and his army charging from behind.
But the greatest of barriers turned into the greatest of miracles. Not only did the sea become an ambush for the enemy, but also a path that led the children of Israel to their ultimate freedom.
So it is with every obstacle. When you’re out to do the right thing, the entire world is there to assist you—including the most formidable threats, the most impossible challenges. The bigger they are, the more impossible to traverse, the greater the miracle they will provide.
That is the true reality of everything in this world: to serve you on your mission. What is your mission? To make this world miraculous.