Dear reader,

A tiny sliver of wood, so small it was hardly discernable. That’s all it was. But as my skin pressed against some rough surface, that tiny millimeter of wood broke off and lodged itself in my forefinger.

I would never have detected this invasion. But, a few days after it made its new abode in the tip of my finger, redness and irritation developed. Upon close inspection, it dawned on me that there was a splinter in my skin that needed to be removed post-haste. The longer I would wait, the more infected my finger—and perhaps even my entire arm and body would eventually become. That’s what happens when an alien, unwanted entity penetrate into our bodies; something small and innocuous spreads and develops into something far more harmful.

In the days between Passover to Shavuot we have begun a new count-down. For seven complete weeks, we count the Omer, until we finally reach the summit on Shavuot.

This counting is meant to also be a spiritual accounting, as we work to refine ourselves. The Kabbalists explain that each of these 7 weeks, we are meant to be working on another of the seven sefirot, the traits and drives of the human psyche. So, for example, the first week, we develop our trait of chessed, love. Every day of this week we refine that drive, as it is complimented and tempered by the other sefirot, (for example: love tempered by discipline, empathetic love, enduring love, humility in love, bonding love, etc.) for a total of seven times seven days and traits.

After we have undergone this methodical, 49-step process of self-refinement, we are ready to receive the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot.

But doesn’t it seem like Judaism demands an awful lot of introspection and self-reflection? All the more so considering that this all follows the strict regimen of Passover; we’ve just meticulously cleansed our homes and ourselves from the ego represented by leaven. I mean, give me a break, more work now to rectify every particular soul trait?

But when I think of my splinter I realize just how much harm a foreign trait or value can cause. A character trait gone bad, or an alien value that has seeped into our psyche may start by taking over just the forefinger, but its effect quickly spreads to infect the entire body.

Luckily, without too much effort I noticed the splinter in time and was able to remove it. If only negative or selfish character traits could be fixed as easily.

Wishing you a great week!

Chana Weisberg,

Editor, TJW