Tying a program of self-awareness and inspiration to the traditional Counting of the Omer — the daily blessing during the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot — Rabbi Karyn Kedar outlined seven principles aimed at making each individual “the person you were always meant to be.”
Kedar, senior rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Ill., and a well-known educator and author, spoke April 6 at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls.
The program was partially supported by a grant from Jewish Federation of Monmouth County.
In her most recent book, Omer: A Counting, Kedar urges readers to focus each of the seven weeks of the period on a different aspect of self-realization.
Step one, she said, is to “decide” to change, to accept that there will be a transition “from that which enslaves us to a sense of personal freedom and meaning.”
In week two, the rabbi called on her listeners to “discern” just what it was they wished to decide. We all hear many voices, both internal and external, she said, “telling us what to do, where to go. There are so many possibilities, and for every possibility there are so many consequences.”
Among the voices, there is one that Kedar calls the “intuitive voice.” This, she believes, is “the divine voice leading you to your higher purpose.”
The third station on the transitional path is to “choose.” “Choosing is intentional living,” she said. “Choosing is our ability to control and order our days. Not choosing throws us into the willy-nilly land of happenstance.”
In Kedar’s plan, week four is devoted to “hope.” She said she got a clearer understanding of hope after a chance sighting on an overcast day of some droopy sunflowers on an Israeli roadside. “I had my husband Ezra stop the car, and I walked among the flowers, trying to figure out how van Gogh had found so much beauty in them. Then I realized that the sunflower isn’t beautiful because of how it looks, but because of how it behaves. All day long, it searches the sky for the sun. As I see it, hope for us is to search the heavens for light.”
“Imagine” is the fifth rung on the ladder. Kedar said that human ingenuity is crucial to the process of transition. “God did not make the land flow with milk and honey,” she declared. But God did provide plenty of goats and date palms, so that humans could harness these resources and turn them into milk and honey, she explained.
“This is the secret of our power: to see the invisible,” she continued. “To pull back the veil that obscures all that is good. To look at what is and see what could be.”
None of this could ever occur without “courage,” Kedar’s sixth principle. The speaker told her listeners, “Under the huppa, I say to every couple I marry, ‘It takes courage to love.’” And, concomitantly, to bear up under the stresses of travail and loss that may accompany love.
During the seventh and final week of the Omer, Kedar said, it is time to focus on prayer.
“Have an active conversation with the invisible: doubt and argue, dream and beg, ask for help, ask for forgiveness, offer gratitude,” she said.
“Anything we truly want to know and understand is, by definition, mysterious,” she said. “Life is given meaning, texture, purpose when, meekly, we utter ‘amen’ to the mystery and magnificence of life.”