How to Count the Omer Pt. 1: Working with the Psalms

PASSOVER’S CALL to leave mitzrayim, the narrow place, is a call to leave the habits of mind and body that narrow our vision and distort our ability to act with love and generosity. Yitziat mitzrayim, the going forth out of Egypt, can be experienced as the continual practice of leaving attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that keep us bound in isolation and fear. Working with the psalms, Jewish tradition teaches, is a tool to open the heart and liberate the spirit. The psalms, these ancient calls for help, these pleas for intimacy and awareness, these cries of pain and shouts of joy, reach into the depths and open the ways forward.

On each day of the Omer, a verse from Psalms is suggested for meditation. Feel encouraged to sit with the verse in the morning and keep returning to it during the day. Be curious as to how the psalm might speak to you.

Impatience, fear or anxiety may arise as you sit in meditation or may distract you in the busyness of your day. When this happens, you might want to shift your attention by saying the verse to yourself. Notice how it feels in your body.

The translations of the psalms come from Rabbi Yael's years of sitting and listening to these calls. Some translations are very close to the Hebrew; others drift much farther away. In each case, she sought to hear in the ancient words the longings of the heart — and to bring forth the verses in ways that could stir the soul and offer guidance on the journey.

The Omer teachings you will see here and can receive as nightly email reminders by signing up for our mailing list, are taken from Rabbi Yael Levy's Omer guide, Journey through the Wilderness, which is available as a whole in print or as an ebook.

The daily teachings will begin Sunday April 21, 2019, and continue to Shavuot, June 8.

The practice as well as Rabbi Yael were featured in a 2015 New York Times article.