The Counting of the Omer & The Human Project

Week 1

Today marks the first week of the Omer, and this week we focus on the notion of “the self.” In upcoming weeks, expect our rabbis’ reflections on other aspects of the Human Project: Truth, Dignity, Purpose, Humility, Community, and Hope.

Our intention is that these weekly emails will foster an introspective period for our community, enhancing the Omer’s relevance, and leading us towards a deeper understanding of The Human Project — an essential component of Temple Micah's Roadmap.

Today's Reflection: The Self and Facing Inward

This week marks the commencement of the Omer, and we turn our attention toward one aspect of The Human Project: "The Self and Facing Inward." 

As famously conveyed by Hillel, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" Additionally, the German philosopher Martin Buber emphasized the importance of the self, noting that each of our worlds originates with the declaration of "I." Buber contended that all of us are intertwined with the world around us, symbolized by the formulation I- (I dash), but stressing that genuine meeting necessitates the firm anchoring of the individual within their own identity.

The notion of “The Self and Facing Inward” is also represented in prayer, as we often begin our worship with Mah Tovu in which each verse begins, “V’ani…” “I.”

“I enter Your house…”

“May my prayer come to You…”

Thus even as the focus of Jewish prayer is communal, the root experience is personal expression, what Rav Kook called, “the song of the self.” He wrote, “There is one who sings the Song of Self, and within one’s self, finds everything; the full of one’s spiritual satisfaction within one’s own fullness.”

What is at issue here is not narcissistic self-care and is separate from contemporary obsession with the autonomous self. The essence of the matter is that we are each singular beings. Indeed, the foundation of the creation story is that each of us was created in the Divine image. 

To begin with one’s self as an aspect of The Human Project is to begin by recognizing our own uniqueness. As we turn toward this truth, we set the groundwork to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we begin by focusing our gaze inward.

Question for Reflection

How can I cultivate a positive relationship with myself and nurture self-love?

About the Counting of the Omer

The Omer is a period of counting that spans the 49 days (7 weeks) between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. The name – Omer – refers to an ancient measure of grain which was brought as an offering to the Temple in Jerusalem on the second day of Passover.

After the destruction of the Temple, the counting of the Omer was reinterpreted as time of introspection leading up to the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. While there are different ways to approach introspection, this year we are choosing to reflect on The Human Project, an essential component of Temple Micah's Roadmap.

Exploring Temple Micah's Roadmap: The Human Project

For this year’s counting, Temple Micah's rabbis will send out a special, weekly email highlighting a different aspect of the The Human Project for us to ponder throughout the week.

In the simplest of explanations, The Human Project is a set of ideas that focus on our shared humanity and what it means to be a good person. It asks us to look inwards at ourselves, acknowledging our own dignity, and to spread this awareness outwards to our communities and the world. We look forward to sharing our reflections with you.


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