The counting of the Omer is an exercise in opening our lives to the holy in what we do. This task is not limited to the Omer period, but everyday throughout the year.
We count the Omer from Passover to Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah. In the Torah we find instruction to build the Mishkan, the temporary portable Temple carried by the people for 40 years in Sinai. It is juxtaposed with the laws of Shabbat which gave rise to the rabbinic understanding of the definition of work (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2). Actions used in building the mishkan (the 39 major categories) were defined as work and prohibited on Shabbat. This was important since while the Torah prohibited work on Shabbat it did not define what work is. This is the traditional understanding of the text. But there is a more subtle message taught here as well.
While the 39 categories tell us what not to do on Shabbat, they also inform us what we should do the other six days of the week. And what is that? Build a mishkan, a dwelling place for God in the world.
This is our charge: to understand that no matter what work we do in our lives from teaching to working in a restaurant to being a garbage collector, we must see the purpose of that work as creating a place for God to dwell among us. We must see whatever work we do as contributing importantly to the tapestry of our world. That work becomes holy when we act with truth, compassion, love and humility. We must release the sparks of holiness contained in what we do not just during the counting of the Omer, but everyday as well.
For more on the Omer, join the conversation by visiting the Omer liveblog on HuffPost Religion, which features blogs, prayers, art and reflections for all 49 days of spiritual renewal between Passover and Shavuot.
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