Countdown to Rosh HaShanah: we’ve arrived!

day 1 of Omer HaTeshuvah begins the evening of September 17, 2020 (29 Elul)

qualities of focus: Chesed (Loving-Kindness) within Chesed (Loving-kindness). It’s all about Love!

This week of Omer HaTeshuvah is focused on Chesed (Loving-Kindness), which is the white circle in this image, the middle circle on the right side. (Image by Marlene Burns, copyright 2020. All rights reserved. art-marleneburns)

the practice of Omer HaTeshuvah

Read, say, or chant any or all of the following:

Tonight begins Day 1 of Omer HaTeshuvah, of counting down the days as we turn towards Rosh HaShanah. It’s the seventh day of the seventh week, the final day of our 49-day countdown. The new year is about to begin!

Echad, yachid, u-m’yuchad. Echad, yachid, u-m’yuchad.

One, only One, all together One. (English from Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi, z’l.)

One, every single One, each one joined and united with the One. (English source unknown.)

Rabbi Shifrah’s 49 poetic meditations for counting the Omer or Omer HaTeshuvah. Write to for a copy.

poetic meditations to help on your journey

Here are two poetic offerings to help with today’s journey.

The first is an invitation to appreciate the journey you’ve taken to arrive at this moment.

The second is called Shema Koleynu: Hear Our Voice Inside. The poem is a reminder to keep our hands open to giving and receiving, even when we’re not sure what we have to give, or what we hope to receive.

The poem was inspired by a quote from nineteenth century Indian writer and artist Rabindranath Tagore.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

R. Tagore

other practices you might try

  1. Consider the questions, feelings or thoughts that arise as you read today’s meditation and journal what comes up for you.
  2. Chant the words “chesed b’chesed” (Loving-Kindness within Loving-Kindness). Use any melody or chanting modality that works for you.
  3. Sit quietly and notice your breathing. As you consider the qualities associated with this day, notice what comes up in your body. Breathe into any areas that need attention, letting out unneeded tension as you exhale.
  4. Stand, sit, walk, or look outside, and notice where can sense the Shekhinah’s enduring presence, the enduring nature of Life.
  5. You might also like to try using this kabbalistic verse about unity and unification. “L’shem yichud kudsha brichu u-shechinteh,l’shem yichud kudsha brichu u-shechinteh. For the sake of Holy Blessed One-ness, unifying with Shekhinah, Divine Presence in our lives.”
  6. Invoke the name of God using the pronunciation of each Hebrew letter of the four-letter Name Y-H-V-H. It goes like this. Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei, Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei, Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei, Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei.
One tone, shape, or aspect is held within another on a single flower – like the Kabbalistic qualities we consider during Omer HaTeshuvah.

more about this day

The seventh day of the week is focused on Chesed, Loving-Kindness.

The seventh week of Omer HaTeshuvah is also focused on Chesed.

As we notice this moment we’re in right now, we can take in the kindnesses, big and small, that carried us here. We can relish the sweet and the challenging aspects of our journey. We can be thankful for all that has come our way, and all that we’ve learned.

Today, it’s all about Love.

the turning from Elul into the new year

As we round the bend to 5781, we can say a special blessing written for auspicious moments such as this. It’s the Shehechiyanu, a blessing of gratitude for That Which Gives Us Life.

Baruch atah YaH, Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam, shehechiyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higiyanu la-z’man ha-zeh.

Blessed are you Yah, our God, Sovereign of the Universe, that gives us life, and sustains us, and brings us to this time.

And in keeping with all we’ve been learning and cultivating in our journey together during Omer HaTeshuvah, here’s Rabbi Shefa Gold’s interpretation of the Shehechiyanu, focusing on the Mysterious Unfolding of Life that, when we pay attention, brings us back to ourselves.

Oh Mystery, Grace unfolding, Oh Miracle, it’s You alone,
Oh Mystery, Grace unfolding, Oh Miracle, Who brings us Home.

You can listen to Rabbi Shefa chant the blessing here.

many thanks

It’s been a pleasure to journey with you to this moment, and to navigate such uncertain times with thoughtful companions. Thank you. I hope our paths will cross again.

L’shanah Tovah!

make a donation

You may be receiving this post because you signed up for the class Omer HaTeshuvah: Turning Together towards a New Year. This program is being co-sponsored with Rapha: The Center for Healing and Spirituality. Please consider making a donation to support the work of Rapha and of Rabbi Shifrah.

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About Rabbi Shifrah


I’m a rabbi, holistic teacher, interfaith chaplain, end of life doula, and poet. I have a healer’s spirit, and am dedicated to social, economic, and environmental justice. I live in Emeryville, CA with my beloved wife Ruth, with whom I’ve been happily partnered for over twenty-two years.

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