This article was originally published on The time of Israel on April 13, 2017.
The genre of Omer-counting books dates back just more than 20 years, to Rabbi Simon Jacobson’s 1996 “The Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer.” Rabbi Jacobson, a Chabad Orthodox rabbi, based his work on the chassidic teaching that the days and the weeks of the Omer count correspond to seven different kabbalistic sefirot, or aspects of God — and that each of the sefirot corresponds as well to an aspect of the human personality.
The result is “a mystical yet accessible, practical 49-step journey through the human personality, refining and perfecting your emotions and behavior allowing you to grow and better cope with life’s daily challenges” — and the expansion of a numerical ritual into a spiritual one.
More recently, there have been several other guides to counting the Omer, including one from a Reform rabbi, published by the movement’s CCAR Press.
Now there’s one from a Conservative rabbi, Lea Gavrieli, that takes a more family-friendly approach. “Counting the Days: Growing Your Family’s Spirit by Counting the Omer” starts from the assumption that counting is fun for kids and that personality growth is not just for adults.
Nor does the book leave it strictly to rabbis. Each day’s combination of personality traits is illustrated with a quotes from people ranging from Albert Einstein to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So take the fourth day of the Omer, counted this year on Friday night, April 13. Day four of week one is, in kabbalistic terminology, “netzach she-be-chesed,” or victory within kindness. What does that mean? She illustrates the idea with a quote from popular children’s author Rick Riordan: “But remember, boy, that a kind act can sometimes be as powerful as a sword.”
Rabbi Gavrieli teaches: “Something that seemed impossibly difficult can sometimes be turned around into an opportunity for unexpected growth and good.”
And she gives a gentle assignment, suitable for the middle school children her book is targets: “As you go through your day, look for an event, a story, a picture or experience to share tonight in which you found kindness, creativity, and ultimately triumph.”
The book bills itself as a way to start meaningful conversations between parents and children. No guarantee, of course, that your children will take to it. But as they say, you can’t find out if you don’t try. You can count on that.