The Hasidic master known as the Sfat Emet speaks about the period of the Counting of the Omer as a time to change the Hebrew letter א / Aleph to the Hebrew letter ע / Ayin.
Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word emirot which can mean “words.” Ayin is the first letter of the Hebrew word Omer symbolizing the counting of the Omer. Perhaps the Sfat Emet was thinking about the process of bringing the words of God into the world, and connecting this idea to the process of the Counting of the Omer.
Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word Adonai (God). Ayin is the first letter of the Hebrew word Olam (world). So by changing Aleph to Ayin we can bring God into the world.
Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew word for light, ohr. Ayin is the first letter of the Hebrew word for eyes, eynayim. So by changing Aleph to Ayin we make divine light visible to our eyes.
The numerical value of the letter Aleph is “one” and the numerical value of the letter Ayin is “seventy.” In going from Aleph to Ayin we go from the number one to the number seventy.
Our tradition teaches us that there are seventy different nations in the world. In moving from Aleph to Ayin, one to seventy, we can aspire to bring the truth of God to all the nations of the world
Our Rabbis also taught us that there are seventy different faces of the Torah. Some say that there are seventy different ways to understand each part of the Torah. One can imagine that by changing the Aleph (one) to Ayin (seventy) we bring the full wisdom of the Torah into the world.
The diversity of humanity is like a prism which refracts God’s light as it enters the world. Through this process of seeking out the seventy faces of Torah, the diversity of humanity refracts the divine light of the Torah into the world. Each individual sees Torah in his or her own way. This process of refraction creates a beautiful array of different types of light and wisdom that can help bring the world to wholeness.
So how do we transform Aleph into Ayin? To make this change we need to go on a spiritual journey of discovery and change. Spiritual journeys are difficult, and they rarely take us along a straight line. The Counting of the Omer is this journey. If all of humanity took the time to bring divine love, compassion, and peace into the world, we could change the Aleph to Ayin. May it be so, this year and every year.
Jason Mann is a physician and a student in the Aleph Rabbinic Ordination Program. Since ending his medical practice he has worked as a spiritual care provider and as an educator exploring the connections between spirituality and medicine.