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Numbers are funny things

Numbers

Numbers

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Numbers are funny things. On the one hand, they seem utterly devoid of meaning: think of the sterility of bureaucracies ("Go to Window #14 and fill out form #3062") or the banality of an address like "25 20th Street." On the other hand, consider how numbers are used when we say things like, "Eighteen years' experience in the business"; "A $450,000 home"; or "This is our child. She's three."

Counting something makes it real to us: only when we have assigned it a quantity can we understand what it means to us and how we can use it. Imagine that you are given a chest full of gold coins. You thank your benefactor and take it home. As soon as the door is securely bolted, what's the first thing you do? Count them, of course. Sure, it feels great to be able to say, "I'm a rich man." But if you want to do something with your riches, you have to know: How much?


"And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Shabbat, from the day on which you bring the Omer offering, seven complete weeks they shall be; until the morrow of the seventh week, you shall count fifty days... And you shall proclaim that very day a holy festival" (Leviticus 23:15-21)

The people of Israel departed Egypt on the 15th of Nissan, celebrated ever since as the first day of Passover. Seven weeks later, on the 6th of Sivan--marked on our calendar as the festival of Shavuot--we assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the Torah from G-d.

Every year, we retrace this journey with a 49-day "Counting of the Omer." Beginning on the second night of Passover, we count the days and weeks. "Today is one day to the Omer," we proclaim on the first night of the count. "Today is two days to the Omer," "Today is seven days, which are one week to the Omer", "Today is twenty-six days, which are three weeks and five days day to the Omer," and so on, until: "Today is forty-nine days, which are seven weeks to the Omer." The fiftieth day is Shavuot.

The Kabbalists explain that we each possess seven powers of the heart--love, awe, beauty, ambition, humility, bonding and regality--and that each of these seven powers includes elements of all seven. These are represented by the seven weeks and forty-nine days of the Omer count.

Every Passover, we are granted a treasure chest containing the greatest gift ever given to man--the gift of freedom. It is also a completely useless gift. What is freedom? What can be done with it? Nothing, unless we open the treasure chest and count its contents.

So on the second day of Passover, after we've taken home our treasure, we start counting. We count seven times seven, because the gift of freedom has been given to each of the seven powers and forty-nine dimensions of our soul. Indeed, what use is a capacity for love, if it is a slave to external influences and internal neurosis? Of what value is ambition, if we are its pawn rather than its master?

Each evening for the next seven weeks, we open our treasure chest and count another coin. We count our loving love, intimidating love, beautiful love, ambitious love, humble love, bonding love and regal love. We assign a number to the regality of our awe ("Today is fourteen days, which are two weeks to the Omer") and to the beauty of our humility ("Today is thirty-one days, which are four weeks and three days to the Omer").

We count them all--and then we present ourselves at Mount Sinai.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
About the artist: Sarah Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Discussion (12)
May 20, 2014
Re: The Omer
There are two different customs as to how the days are counted. Some congregations have a custom of saying baomer, in the omer, while others have a custom of saying laomer, of or "to" the omer. The wording of the article follows the custom of those recite 'La'omer" - to (or 'of)' the Omer. For more on this see the Counting of the Omer
Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org
May 18, 2014
The Omer
My understanding is that from Leviticus 23. 15-21 that "you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the Shabbat, from the day on which you bring the Omer offering seven complete weeks."
At the end of the seven complete weeks the Torah was given at Mt Sinai and that day is the Holy festival of Shavuot.
So the Omer has been offered and the count is the days since the Omer was offered to move towards the Torah. I don't understand why the writer says in the article " today is day one day TO the Omer. Today is two days TO the Omer" etc. From my understanding the Omer has been given and the day is FROM the Omer. And at day fifty, at seven full weeks, FROM the giving of the Omer, it is the receiving of the Torah. It is not the Omer on day Fifty, it is not the Omer that is given on that day. The Omer was given at the start of the count as detailed in Leviticus. Can you explain to me why the article is saying TO the Omer for each day when Leviticus says the count is FROM the Omer.
Jane Thomson
New Zealand
May 15, 2012
The Omer
I greatly enjoyed reading thes comments
Diane Moriarity
New port Richey, Florida
April 26, 2011
Numbers
This is so beautiful! It made me really understand why we count the Omer: after Passover we are not free yet, our bodies may be, but our soul is still enslaved. Only after becoming aware of, and deeply reflecting on each of the seven powers and 49 dimensions of our soul, does it become refined, "cleaned of its defilement", and truly free.
I paired this article with the video "Every moment is precious" by the Rebbe. It is explosive! I expect to gain much growth and many blessings from this wisdom. Thanks.
Maria
New York, NY
May 17, 2007
You have been grossely missunderstood,
I feel very sorry for you, I read "Numbers "
and really appreciated.
Franca Englander
April 25, 2007
numbers
Numbers are part of the beauty of nature and nature is part of the beauty of G-d. All is good, all is "One"
steve brody
roslyn harbor, ny / usa
April 17, 2007
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Ever heard of Gematria, Mr. Neira?
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-, -
April 28, 2006
To Adam Neira: Wasting potential.
Actually, the Vilna Gaon in Hagahos HGra Y”D 189:1 writes, that “Investing meaning into numbers” (-Goralos) is NOT likened to sorcery, since one involved in sorcery is transgressing a Negative Commandment, where as “numbers” is only prohibited because of “Tamim Thiye” – you shall be complete with G-d. This obviously doesn’t really matter to this article, since the writer is solely exploring the words of the Zohar, in which the Vilna Gaon obviously was well versed... BTW later in that Siman, Hagahos HaGra 13 the Gaon actually brings the zohar as proof to depute the Rambam’s stand on sorcery.
Eli
May 16, 2005
Numbers
Thank you Eliyahu Bari. Some people have irrational issues with numbers due to limited skills. Things like numbers, money and wealth have great potential to perfom Miztvahs.
Abe
Staten Island, NY
chabadpasadena.com
May 4, 2005
Counting of Omer and misrepresentaion of VilnaGaon
Adam Neira, certainly you didn't mean to say that the Vilna Gaon was against fulfilling G-d given mitzva of counting of Omer? Surely when it gets to our own "discoveries" that may be true. Lets say if you where to invest meaning into some numbers, but again not when its a case specifically commanded by Almighty, don't you think? Google for "vilna gaon on counting of omer" and you'll get tons of material on Gaon's comments on Sfirat HaOmer.
To conclude: do not speak on belhaf of a brilliant tzadik for in misrepresenting his powerfull G-d instilled words with your limited comprehension of it you doing something that is very unadvisable. Hag sameah!
Eliyahu Bari
Alpharetta, GA/USA
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