Growing Each Day Despite Negativity
Updated: Feb 15
From the second night of Passover, we begin a 49-day period known as the “Omer.” We count each day, for seven weeks, until Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates receiving the Torah.
When the Jews were taken out of Egypt, they were on a low spiritual level. Four-fifths of the Jews didn’t even make it out of Egypt. They were killed in the plague of darkness because they were so absorbed in the Egyptian culture (even as slaves) that they didn’t want to leave! As for the Jews who did merit to make it out, the Torah teaches that they were on the forty-ninth level of impurity. If they had reached the fiftieth level, the Jews would have been irredeemable.
Once they left Egypt, the Jews needed time to purify themselves before they could merit to receive the Torah. So too, the Omer is a time for us to do teshuva, to work on being our best selves and come closer to G-d. Rather than counting down, we count up each day, as we are climbing up our individual spiritual ladders.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a famous Chassidic Rebbe from the 18th century, has a beautiful teaching on the Omer. He explains that as we attempt to better ourselves, we will inevitably face obstacles. These daily obstacles we encounter, he says, are in direct proportion to the spiritual levels and wisdom we seek to achieve.
Obviously, it is not easy to stay positive in the face of everyday annoyances and negative thoughts, let alone as bigger challenges. However, our attempt to stay positive is essential because when we are depressed and in despair, we are not motivated to grow. Rather, we can only grow when we are in a state of positivity and joy. “Accordingly,” says Rebbe Nachman, “A person’s entire spiritual rectification- as well as his utter ruin, God forbid- is wholly dependent on guarding the thoughts in his heart.”
Rebbe Nachman says that negative thoughts are normal, but we don’t have to believe them or give them energy. A problem can only exist if we give it energy. Rather than dwell on our negative thoughts or a perceived problem, we can creative positive thoughts and envision a solution. It sounds simple, but the Torah behind this concept is much deeper and can be found in the class, How To Deal With Negative Thoughts, which I highly recommend.
Working on ourselves is not something to do another time or when we are less busy- we can start today, right now. Rebbe Nachman explains that the counting of each day during the Omer comes to teach us that each day counts. Today is a day where we can, and should, accomplish the most we can in being our best selves and coming closer to G-d. This is why G-d gave the Jews so many mitzvot, so that we have many opportunities to do this. Of course, it is not easy. This is why the day begins with night, with darkness, because there are always barriers that prevent us from reaching our goals. Still, we must never fool ourselves into thinking that today is a wasted day or that we are better off waiting until tomorrow, he says. Rather, we need to strengthen ourselves and make every possible attempt to break through the obstacles surrounding us because every day, and every moment, counts!
The Breslov Haggadah, Appendix C: Until Shavuot, Sefirah- The Omer Counting, p. 70
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Abridged Likutey Moharan, Lesson #49
Click here to learn more about the Omer.