Week 1: Intro & Hesed/ Loving-Kindness
Our Creative Arts program is underway! This past week we focused on Hesed/Loving Kindness and our core text was: The world is built with hesed (Psalm 89:3). During the afternoon students made thumbprint counters for our Omer Counter and found images for our Hesed collage. We defined hesed as “doing something that cannot be returned or reciprocated” and came up with examples such as giving a gift anonymously, comforting mourners, visiting the sick, and hospitality for visitors. Students compares different ways of giving tzedakah (an act of hesed), listened to the core text sung on a youtube video and drew images of what it means that the world is built on hesed. Students then transferred their image to their Omer cube. As “the world is built on kindness,” each students’ cube is a metaphor for a building block. Reflection is a significant component of this program and learning in general, at the end of the day everyone shared an observation about a peer's work and something about their work.
Here’s some information for you about the Omer Period. An omer is a unit of measure. In the days of the Temple a grain offering was referred to as the Omer. The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, and Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah. During the seven week Omer period, the days between Passover and Shavuot, we have the opportunity to consider seven different qualities within each of us and how we can use them to make a difference in our community. Over the next seven weeks, we will focus on one quality each week. The seven qualities are: loving-kindness, inner strength, inner beauty, commitment, gratitude, connection, and leadership. We are creating an Omer Counter for Temple Israel to use during the seven weeks so that each year our community can count the days and reflect on the quality during the week together.
Lastly, this past week an article by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo caught my eye and I thought I would share the beginning with you because I think he does a nice job of explaining why we count the Omer:
“Numerous commentators and philosophers have explained the biblical commandment to count the days between Pesach and Shavuot (See Leviticus 23:15) as a way to encourage people not only to count these days, but to use this time to examine their thoughts and feelings and take stock of their lives. Both the exodus from Egypt — which initiated our forefathers’ first encounter with liberty — as well as its culmination with the giving of the Torah — the law of moral freedom — at Mount Sinai should become ingrained in our personalities, inspiring constant moral elevation. The purpose of the period between the two festivals is to relive these sublime moments so as to ennoble ourselves. Nothing is more dangerous for a person than to remain spiritually stale. It is for this reason than one is required to count the 49 days of the Omer. To prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Shavuot and the giving of the Torah, we are asked to climb a ladder of 49 spiritual steps in which each day will add another dimension to our souls.”