Yosef Goldman is Rabbi & Director of Sacred Music at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia and the incoming Co-Director of Hadar’s Rising Song Institute.
We made it to the seder. Retelling the foundational story of liberation and redemption, we were able to see ourselves in it, to feel ourselves leaving the collective and personal “Egypts” that constrict us. We were carried along on a wave of gratitude for the goodness in our lives, enveloped by the swell of great love that was formed on the eve of the Exodus millenia ago - a great love that is rekindled anew each year on Pesah. And like our ancestors, we find ourselves each Pesach without adequate tools to fully integrate the sudden encounter with the Divine presence. Longingly our hearts cry out for more, for a relationship with the divine that is lasting and sustaining.
Pesach celebrates and facilitates the dramatic release from bondage, the first step of freedom; the subsequent seven weeks is a time for deepening that freedom through the slow and steady work of self-exploration- examining the habits of thought and behavior that have kept us enslaved. With each step along the path of the Omer we reawaken our hearts and renew our relationship with our longings and aspirations, aligning our desire with the Holy One’s desire. Following this course of spiritual discipline, we arrive at Shavuot more whole, ready to integrate the experience of divine revelation with wisdom and discernment, ready to recommit to a lasting covenantal relationship with God.
Below is a video of Sefirat Ha’Omer Niggun, recorded live at the Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia. It is the first song we’re releasing from my upcoming debut album, Open My Heart, on Hadar’s Rising Song Records. I hope that it enhances your experience of the mitzvah of Counting the Omer.
Sefirat Ha’Omer Niggun was written in 2012 by Shir Yaakov Feit, Zach Fredman, and myself on a Friday afternoon during the Omer, soon before heading to co-lead Kabbalat Shabbat at Romemu.
The words of this song are taken from the liturgy recited before fulling the mitzvah of counting the Omer. They include the blessing and a version of a preliminary declaration of intention — the “Le’sheim Yihud — common among Sefardim and Chassidim.
This kabbalistic formula is meant to focus and express one’s intention to serve God by increasing Divine Presence in the world through our actions- unifying the earthly and heavenly manifestation of God, the material and the physical.
לְשֵׁם יִחוּד קּוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא וּשְׁכִינְתֵּיהּ…
הִנְּנִי מוּכָן וּמְזֻמָּן לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁל סְפִירַת הָעֹמֶר…
׳׳שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימוֹת תִּהְיֶינָה:׳׳
Le-sheim yichud Kudeshah Berikh Hu uShkhinteih…
Hineni muchan umezuman l’kayeim mitzvat aseh shel Sefirat Ha-Omer…
“Sheva shabbatot temimot tihyenah.”
For the sake of the unification of the transcendent creative power with the divine presence dwelling here and now, I am here, I am ready to fulfill the mitzvah of counting the Omer. [As it is written in the Torah: “And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering—the day after the sabbath—you shall count off] seven weeks. They must be complete…” (Lev. 23:15-16)
Sefirat Ha’Omer Niggun
(composed by Shir Yaakov Feit, Zach Fredman, and Yosef Goldman)
Recorded live at Germantown Jewish Centre, April 2, 2019
Featuring Yosef Goldman, Deborah Sacks Mintz, and Chava Mirel (vocals), Joey Weisenberg (mandolin), Zach Fredman (guitar), Daniel Ori (bass), and Megan Gould (violin)
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