Omer Compleat and Explained

We call it the counting of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuos when we literally make a counting corresponding to both historical and spiritual realities. Historical: the omer is the wave offering, the harvesting of the barley grain during Temple times. Now we do a ritual counting daily called Sefirah. This year during the Sefirah period, I am after more guidance with less text. I take for my prompt the teaching brought down by R. Nachman the Breslover: when we pay attention to what happens during the days of the Sefirah period, we become aware of the energies in each day and so align ourselves to G*d’s inscrutable will.

The Sefirah/the Counting begins on the second day of Passover and continues until 50, which is Shavuos.

Each week is guided by one of the seven lower energies/Sefirot; each day during that week I track the work of the particular energy of the day in the context of the week’s spiritual environment. So the first week is given over to Chesed – a form of giving, opening – and each day of that week the work of chesed in chesed, then gevurah – severity – within chesed, etc.

I imagine the Sefirot in triads, two as complements, a third as synthesis, and Malkhut as the spout through which the *divine energy spills into my awareness.

Below is the whole period with a brief key to the energies/Sefirot. I will update the complete document as I feel them, write them, inscribe them. With my students, I open the day with a meditation searching myself for the image/imagery that characterizes that day’s intersection of energies; the day reveals itself in the engine of Energies. I do this respecting the Breslover guidance that the day will reveal itself to me in its inner character. I will add to the document as I write the images, as the images write me.

We began the counting on Tuesday evening this year, March 26.


Chesed love, opening, giving
Gevurah severity, power, withholding
Tiferet beauty, pride

Netzach triumph, aggrandizement
Hod glory, beauty
Yesod foundation, including sexual energy

Malkhut majesty, the feminine, the inner notion

Week 1, Day 1, Counting 1: Chesed in Chesed
Week 1, Day 2, Counting 2: Gevurah in Chesed
Week 1, Day 3, Counting 3: Tiferet in Chesed
Week 1, Day 4, Counting 4: Netzach in Chesed
Week 1, Day 5, Counting 5: Hod in Chesed
Week 1, Day 6, Counting 6: Yesod in Chesed
Week 1, Day 7, Counting 7: Malchut in Chesed

Chesed in chesed/ Counting 1

Cut my freedom this year
With fear
An act of will.

Gevurah in Chesed/Counting 2

Restore health
Make sure the face is
Breathing —

Slap the face
Into awakening.

Tiferet in Chesed/Counting 3

You are beautiful you unforgiving self
Truth and
Without your expectations
I would never be nearly as

Netzach in Chesed/Counting 4

Leave the good
To the simple.

Be Dark and light
Carry two shoulders
Into the wind.

Hod in Chesed/Counting 5

Fresh slice of soul
Two wings over the world.

Yesod in Chesed/Counting 6

The mud the mud
the dark
the dirt

looks good.

Malkhut in Chesed/Counting 7

A happy man, a happy man I said;

When did you get out of the basement,
you asked;

This morning.
I gave it up entirely this morning
And I intend to give it up —

Tomorrow morning.

Week 2, Day 1, Counting 8: Chesed in Gevurah
Week 2, Day 2, Counting 9: Gevurah in Gevurah
Week 2, Day 3, Counting 10: Tiferet in Gevurah
Week 2, Day 4, Counting 11: Netzach in Gevurah
Week 2, Day 5, Counting 12: Hod in Gevurah
Week 2, Day 6, Counting 13: Yesod in Gevurah
Week 2, Day 7, Counting 14: Malchut in Gevurah

Chesed in Gevurah/Counting 8

You might see bees now and again down at the corner
Flying around the flowers under that sculpture where birds won’t sit;

Oh honeybee
You are working so hard to be alive.

Gevurah in Gevurah/Counting 9

Sat next to Socrates on the bus this morning
He isn’t angry with Plato
Just wishes they could have
Stayed close;

He still clams he knows
Calls himself a midwife;

He helped give birth to
What I call
My wisdom;

Tiferet in Gevurah/Counting Ten

In the inevitable descent

Planted here to grow Something.

You arrived.

Week 3, Day 1, Counting 15: Chesed in Tiferet
Week 3, Day 2, Counting 16: Gevurah in Tiferet
Week 3, Day 3, Counting 17: Tiferet in Tiferet
Week 3, Day 4, Counting 18: Netzach in Tiferet
Week 3, Day 5, Counting 19: Hod in Tiferet
Week 3, Day 6, Counting 20: Yesod in Tiferet
Week 3, Day 7, Counting 21: Malchut in Tiferet

Week 4, Day 1, Counting 22: Chesed in Netzach
Week 4, Day 2, Counting 23: Gevurah in Netzach
Week 4, Day 3, Counting 24: Tiferet in Netzach
Week 4, Day 4, Counting 25: Netzach in Netzach
Week 4, Day 5, Counting 26: Hod in Netzach
Week 4, Day 6, Counting 27: Yesod in Netzach
Week 4, Day 7, Counting 28: Malchut in Netzach

Week 5, Day 1, Counting 29: Chesed in Hod
Week 5, Day 2, Counting 30: Gevurah in Hod
Week 5, Day 3, Counting 31: Tiferet in Hod
Week 5, Day 4, Counting 32: Netzach in Hod
Week 5, Day 5, Counting 33: Hod in Hod
Week 5, Day 6, Counting 34: Yesod in Hod
Week 5, Day 7, Counting 35: Malchut in Hod

Week 6, Day 1, Counting 36: Chesed in Yesod
Week 6, Day 2, Counting 37: Gevurah in Yesod
Week 6, Day 3, Counting 38: Tiferet in Yesod
Week 6, Day 4, Counting 39: Netzach in Yesod
Week 6, Day 5, Counting 40: Hod in Yesod
Week 6, Day 6, Counting 41: Yesod in Yesod
Week 6, Day 7, Counting 42: Malchut in Yesod

Week 7, Day 1, Counting 43: Chesed in Malchut
Week 7, Day 2, Counting 44: Gevurah in Malchut
Week 7, Day 3, Counting 45: Tiferet in Malchut
Week 7, Day 4, Counting 46: Netzach in Malchut Malchut
Week 7, Day 5, Counting 47: Hod in Malchut
Week 7, Day 6, Counting 48: Yesod in Malchut
Week 7, Day 7, Counting 49: Malchut in Malchut

*N.B. Don’t forget, for us the day begins the evening before.

The Pure

Let the pure come and occupy themselves with the pure
so said the wondrous Rav Assi [Lev.R.7:3]
in the 3rd – 4th century;

Student of Rav Shmuel in Nehardea (Babylonia)
companion of Rav Ammi;

Assi Ammi Assi Ammi;

What they talked about —


Small alef; poetry Vayikra
Maqam Rast

Small alef; Vayikra 6

Let the future forgive us

For knowing
when we brought our offerings on these altars

With smoke and incense
burning flesh, oil mixed with meal;

When we invited God to sit at our table
before we became abstract,

Let the future forgive us
for knowing what we were doing.

Maqam Rast

Small alef; pekudei

Our Teacher Lured by Perfectability

Our teacher, lured by perfectability
created it out of all his imperfections –

God, as they say, gave him permission [that’s all he needed]
to make it imperfect
but with the right supernal pattern in mind.

The other Houses were destroyed
but Sanctuary always Endures.

small alef; poetry Pekudei 4
Maqam Nawa C D E-flat F sharp

Vayakhel small alef; poetry

Begin with holiness in time
keep the Sabbath
turn to subduing the space
build the sanctuary.

And everyone who excelled in ability
and everyone whose spirit moved
came, bringing to God an offering
for the work of the Tent of Meeting
and for all its service.

If we are lifted up
anything is possible —
there will be plenty of money
maybe too much.
There can be too much money.

Here —
at the beginning of the enterprise
we brought too much money.
The stuff we had was sufficient [Ex.36:7]
and our teacher asked us not to bring any more.

Always the temptation
when doing the work
to bring too much stuff.

Enough, our teacher said,
enough stuff
— bring bones and blood.

jsg, usa

Small alef; poetry Vayakhel
Maqam Hoseini
D E-flat F G

Remembering Lillian at One Year part 2

photo Todd Weinstein
Remembering Lillian from “The Unlikely Convergence of Stories”

The next day, into New York City to finish the art for the CD. Finding P, before the trek uptown to see one of the major musical Shlomos who got into my head twenty years before and rearranged everything. This major musical Shlomo had changed everything and he was doing a rare show in the United States, in my favorite place, New York City.

I met P early to add the finishing touches to the CD, and he talked me out of homogenizing the name and retaining the ten universals that pulse and throb through all reality.

Shlomo was performing in the same place where I had been trying to land a gig. I got there a half an hour before the show so I could get a front row seat. I was accompanied by my friend Todd and his wife Izzy. I told them about Shlomo, trying to manage my enthusiasm, his influence on me so strong that I sometimes hear Shlomo when I sing.

“How long has it been since you’ve seen him?”

“Oh ——– seven years.”

I wondered whether he was still on fire. I settled into the front row and dreamed. I was tired from a rich afternoon of conversation with Lillian, Ben-Zion’s widow, in the four story brownstone in Chelsea which is a museum to Ben-Zion, four floors full of his paintings, sculpture, collectible antiquities, books, obsessions. It had already been a delirious day.

I had brought Lillian a wonderful photograph of Turkish pottery that S, relative of Ben-Zion in my town, had given me to deliver to Lillian. S had taken the picture in Ankara and processed it through a Polaroid imaging technique that gave the picture a special cast with chemical turquoise overtones at the edges. It was beautiful and a good choice, I thought, it was just the type of image that intrigued Ben-Zion: the pottery, the shapes, the implied antiquity, the work of the hands.

Since I had written the article on Ben-Zion, Lillian and I had come to be friends.

“Jimmy, when were you here last?” Lillian asked me.

“Summer. Almost a year ago.”

I had read to her at that time an article as it was published that I had written on Ben-Zion. The article was as much about her as it was about Ben-Zion. She had corrected the three or four errors I had made in the text.

In the article, I mentioned that I open my concerts with an intention that I took from the image in Ben-Zion’s “The Psalmist.” When I stared into that piece, I saw King David clutching his instrument to his chest, not playing it, but I imagined the moment before he played it, a moment of silent intention, holding the instrument to his heart. Like David in that image, I opened my concerts by an embrace, holding my instrument silently to my chest.

After I had finished reading to her, she asked me to perform for her. “Jimmy, play for me.”

“I don’t have an instrument.”

“Here,” she went into the other room and came back with a flaccid frame drum that Ben-Zion no doubt picked up somewhere and dragged home. It was old and interesting looking and unplayable.

I beat out a little rhythm anyway, closed my eyes and began to sing. I sang three songs, my voice had opened in the dense August New York City humidity of that summer, my vocal quality in her kitchen was as good as it has ever been.

She told me that she loved my singing and songs. She described in an extra-musical way something central to the music that only the most perceptive or the best trained understand. It was one of the most insightful compliments to my musical abilities I had ever received.

She closed with this: “What’s a human being without a spirit?”

jsg, usa