Counting the Omer: Cultivating Patience and the Capacity to Bear Oneself One Day At a Time
We’re counting up to the time of receiving the Torah. The magnificent union between God and the Jewish people. The Torah is so many things. The gift that keeps on giving. It can- like everything- be misused and serve as anti-life. It is a gift that unfolds all the endless possibility of life, of being and of the world. The prophet of the Torah is Moses.
Moses was the humblest of all. Rashi said that he was a savlan-סבלן. This can mean that he was patient. Kafka says that all sin is born of impatience. My first Torah teacher said that being a סבלן — one who bears — described the great Moses as being able to bear himself. To hold within oneself plurality and diversity. Can we say just like God? Or at least like Torah?
What is it to bear oneself? I was listening to a rabbinic student the other week describe how his inner process has changed when he’s listening to people with whom he disagrees. In the past, because he couldn’t bear himself, he couldn’t sit with his own discomfort, he would react either inside or out loud – and either close up, lash out, argue and defend what was being said. And now, he noticed how he can sit with the dissonance in a new way. He doesn’t need to pass on the hot potato of discomfort. He can bear himself.
It’s incredible how as humans we can see so much and at the same time be so blind. This is really hitting home for me at the moment.
I’m in an intense period of transition where I’m learning deep and beautiful things about myself. And at the same time I got tripped up by the inability to bear myself, the inability to sit with the discomfort of holding dissonant realities and waiting. Waiting. It is so important to wait and allow things to settle. It can also be the hardest thing. It’s also ironic because I have been working intensely on self-love and coming to new levels of being at rest inside myself because of the strengthening of my inner feminine and masculine and the relationship between them.
And yet, this bearing oneself invites another flavor of self-love, another hue of wisdom.
It calls for a total trust and surrender into one’s basic nature. No external validation matches this most exquisite surrender. Our own severe internal dissonance is a magnificent opportunity to activate this surrender.
אין אדם עומד על דברי תורה אלא אם כן נכשל בהן
The rabbis teach us in Gittin 43a that a person can really only can stand for something — can stand in words of Torah once she has stumbled in them.
Sometimes our learning is in the doing. We may think we need to get it right from the beginning but sometimes it’s not like that. From the outset we may not know what to say or even do but our attempts can show us and help us to refine and be precise. We may go close to an emotional limit for us. Oops too much. We need to step back. We can listen in to how things are sitting inside us, we can work out our limits and boundaries. All this is the work to hone ourselves as vessels for service and the good.
As we continue to wake up may we be ever so gentle with ourselves as we are learning and growing. This Union with the Divine is a transformative relationship. It’s not for the faint-hearted. We are in for the long haul. This holds us. And yet our vitality is supported through constantly being willing to sacrifice our fixed ideas, and then in the giving up, finding the next step, making the path as we go. Alive with the fullness and newness of each moment, we are pulsating with the vitality of life that we took birth for.
As my counting the omer app flashed onto my phone tonight and I counted the day, I was relieved by the constancy of the count. Every day is just one day. And then another. It forces patience. It invites the fullness of time and bearing oneself. There is no rush. It is what it is. No stalling. No speeding. One day at a time. In for the long haul.