Omer: counting up – personal growth Torah style

Since the second day of Pesach we are in the count up towards being worthy enough to receive the Torah. We count in order to bring ourselves (personality, traits, actions, etc.) closer to emulating the most refined character – Hashem Himself. It’s a yearly cycle of renewal, self-improvement and growth, exactly what the instruction manual itself is designed for. A big new-age psychology book that helps us both eliminate our negative traits and build on our positive ones.

This aspect of Yiddishkite is what drives me. The opportunity that ‘we’ observant Jews get so frequently through the daily, monthly, cyclical events that enable us to grow and develop ourselves. Every Jewish holiday, festival, year, Shabbos and even month is designed to give us the chance to improve on who we are and what we can give to the world. It’s a special religion that can offer such growth to a person, and whether religious or not, everyone can learn from the philosophies and easy ‘how-to’s’ that Judaism offers. In fact, the quantity of information out there about mussar and self-improvement is so immense it is reachable by anyone. What I love is having the framework that so frequently reminds us that we must always analyse who we are, who we want to be and how to get there. The framework encourages us to take a good hard look at ourselves and move forward. Being the same may be comfortable but it is not satisfying. Real satisfaction is overcoming a habit or a character trait that has always brought you down or made you do something you inwardly know is wrong. Overcoming oneself has got to be the most satisfying experience one can have. And then you get married and have children and all your buttons get pushed in every possible way. That is when you are ready to take on greater challenges (and yes, they will come) in becoming a more refined human being. The more refined we are as humans, the more we emulate Hashem’s attributes, and with this, bring Him into our world. We become our souls. We become something greater than the name or the character we were given. That is the power of the human being, that separates us from the animals. We can become more than our selves, more than who we were. We have the enormous and magnificent ability to overcome and exceed and break free from the shackles of our ‘destiny’. The most inspiring stories are always ones of people overcoming their inhibitions and moving beyond what they thought they could. That is our entire purpose – to become more and in so doing becoming a Kiddush Hashem.

Tonight is the 5th day of the first week – tonight and tomorrow we develop the Hod in the Chesed – the humility within loving-kindness. Yet another day is dedicated to another core component of who we are and how we interact with this world. 49 days counting up towards a better self, that is privileged enough to receive the instructions on how to be a better human being. And the cycle starts again.

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