It's that time again. SEFIRAT HAOMER, or Counting the Omer. The 49 days between Passover and Shavuot are a time when flowers and trees blossom, when the weather becomes warmer, and when the Jewish people transform from a group of slaves to a nation worthy of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. Much like the plants and trees, it requires light, nourishment, and quite a bit of effort to produce results.
Obviously, reading the appropriate materials enhances the journey and makes this time period one of development and growth in wisdom, character traits (middos), and better interpersonal relationships. We've chronicled some of them -- Counting the Omer (2017) and Counting the Omer 5778 -- but thankfully there are always more.
You Are What You Hate: A Spiritually Productive Approach to Enemies (Devora Publishing, 2009) by Sarah Yehudit Schneider explores the question "What is the most good-serving, God-serving (and also, surprisingly, self-serving) response to the test of enemies, and how can I use their vexation for positive change?" While not specifically about the Counting of the Omer, it is an excellent choice to read during the period because it deals with the Sefiros and working to change thought and action patterns.
These concepts are not unique to Judaism. Kolyanne Ross's essay "What Annoys You and What You Hate About Others is Your Own Reflection," observes that "If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself." Schneider takes this idea and analyzes through the prism of the Sefiros. The challenge is that there is no formula that works for everyone; there is not even a formula what works for a person in all situations. One must keep in mind that the most productive response to the test of enemies "is a journey, a multi-millenial trek that is guided by practical considerations, ethical imperatives, and spiritual principles." I could never do justice to the brilliant way Schneider explains the issues and lays out the explanation, so all I can say is read this book carefully. It will blow your mind.
Another excellent choice that is not specifically for the Counting of the Omer is The Sefiros and the Self: A Divine Blueprint for Self-Discovery and Personal Growth (Feldheim, 2016). "The challenges that most of us face in our day-to-day lives are often a product of our own character flaws and lack of personal growth. G-d created the world utilizing the Sefiros, a perfectly integrated system of intellectual, emotional and expressive attributes. The lessons of the Sefiros can be applied to our own character development." Rabbi Yaakov Feder "analyzes real-life examples and provides practical, down-to-earth solutions to help us overcome chronic failings and discover our ideal selves."
This year's Sefirah in Our Lives: Transforming Our Relationship with Ourselves, with Others, and with Hashem (Feldheim 2021) is destined to be a classic. Chani Juravel is therapist, lecturer, and high school principal, and her talks and articles are filled with Torah thoughts and common sense. In this volume, Juravel provides daily readings with insights for each day. For example, Day 23 of the Omer ( in week 4) relates to Discipline in Endurance, Juravel looks at "the focus and discipline that help us set up and stick to an action plan that will help keep your commitments alive." Each day's reading also includes a "Call to Action," to either think, write, or speak to someone in order to improve on past missteps.
Introducing a new member of the Real Cats of Israel who lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He has blue eyes and a way with the ladies, so naturally, his name is "Sinatra:"