An Omer Poem from Rabbi Diane Elliot

This poem is part of Rabbi Diane Elliot’s collection of 49 poems, This Is the Day, Ha-Yom Yom, inspired by the ancient practice of counting the Omer. This mitzvah, described in the Torah, involved bringing an omer (a dry measure) of the spring barley harvest to be waved by the High Priest in the Tabernacle, much as we wave the lulav during the fall harvest festival of Sukkot: “You are to count from the day after the rest day (Passover), from the day you brought the Omer wave-offering—they are to be seven complete weeks. Until the say after the seventh week you are to count 50 days” (Leviticus 23:15-16). The 16th century mystics transformed this agricultural ritual into a daily mindfulness practice of refining the self in preparation for the receiving of Torah, commemorated on the festival of Shavu’ot, seven weeks plus one day after the second night of Passover. Each day of the practice is an opportunity to examine the intersection of two qualities of the seven “lower” emanations of the kabbalistic Tree of Life, to make an inner repair (tikkun).

What keeps me
going when the
practice becomes
boring? No words
spring to mind,
no inspiration
bubbles up from
within? Then
I can only lean
back into now.
Suddenly I’m six
years old clinging
to a flimsy
sled that’s hurtling
on solid ice,
with no one
steering. I’m eight
years old strapped into
the parachute ride
at Riverview, the
old amusement park,
and it’s too late
to change my mind,
and there’s nothing
to do but trust
the fellow who
runs the machinery,
wait for the
chute to open
and hope the
guy wires hold.
I’m sixty-five years
old, hurtling downhill
through a life
I think I’ve
pieced together
choice by choice,
realizing that
my job is
to relax
at last
because Someone
Else is
definitely steering.

Netzakh sheh’b’netzakh
Victory/will within victory/will