Lev Counts the Omer:

A Meditation for 5766


The meditation I have worked out uses the sefirot of the Tree of Life to build a 'memory palace' in a fashion inspired by the ancient Art of Memory -- which is a bit of a topic in itself. Here's a summary to give folks a context for it.

The basic technique, first written down by the Greeks, uses a visualized image of a place (traditionally, a building, but it could be a garden, or whatever). The place is to have a variety of easily remembered rooms or parts, and into these places you can put an image of something to help you remember whatever it is you are trying to memorize - a name, for example. If you meet a guy named George, say, and he's a gardener, you could imagine a garden shed as your place, and on the wall, hang a sickle in the shape of a G. Then, to remember him, just go back to the garden and look on the wall of the shed.

Traditionally, the Art of Memory was used by orators to remember points of a speech, or later, by medieval theologians, to remember lists of various virtues and punishments for sins. And throughout its history, The Art of Memory has also been associated with magicians and mystics, who can use it to help remember various experiences, states of being, complicated meditations and such.

The intruiging bit is that, by creating this kind of construct in your mind-space, you can be surprised by emergent patterns and unexpected connections as you visit your Memory Palace and find something may have moved, or a new door exists where there was not one before, and it reveals a whole new perspective on things to you.

So I got intruiged by this Art, and realized the Sefirot can make an excellent Memory Palace, and the Counting of the Omer would make the ideal meditation for constructing it - with the added bonus that meditating on it as such can really fix the Sefirot better in your psyche. Quick, how many of you can tell me the difference between Netzach and Hod, off the top of your head? But if Netzach is a Golden Door in a garden wall, and Hod is a Copper Basin beside it, you can remember right away that Netzach is the energy that helps you get through obstacles (the wall), and that Hod, bearing that heavy weight of water, is that energy that helps keep you going steady under a heavy load.

Why those particular images, you ask? I'll get to that in a second.

So I decided that my Memory Palace would comprise the Sefirot. But I needed an easy visual mnemonic key, to remind me, at each point in my mental construct, what Sefira I was in. And for that, I remembered Reb Zalman's beautiful rainbow tallis, on which he placed a band of color for each of the seven lower Sefirot. So there was my key:

So each Sefira would be a Place in my Memory Palace, with its particular color dominant. I imagined Chesed as a Purple Pool in the mountains, because like a pool, Chesed is a wellspring of love and mercy. Gevurah I pictured as a Blue Castle, because Chesed is Strength, and I had just finished re-reading the Narnia books, so castles were on my mind.

We can go further in, then, to the Sefirot within each Sefira, by putting an object of the appropriate color in the place of the appropriate color. So in the Purple Pool of Chesed, you can place a Blue Sword for Gevurah, and meditate on that on the appropriate day of the Omer (in this example, day 2). Meditating on this may reveal some interesting things, as you ponder, 'okay, so how is the Strength contained within Lovingkindness like a sword lying at the bottom a pool? Hm, makes me think of the courtly love of the Troubadors; Strength inspired by Love, a sort of questing hopefulness and faith.'

And that's how I got a Gold (yellow) Door for Netzach, and a Copper (orange) Basin for Hod. At least, that's why I chose those colors.

If anyone likes, I encourage them to try the meditation by imagining their own set of places with their own set of objects therein, to represent the Sefirot with the Sefirot through the counting of the Omer. I'll post my own places and things that I come up with, which you may use in your own meditation if you prefer that to inventing your own.

Which brings up an important part - I'm making this up as I go, and I don't claim to be a Great Authority, nor have I been made one of the Secret Chiefs yet, and I don't suspect I'm one of the Thirty-Six Tzaddikim who sustain the world -- so don't take any of my own ideas as anything more than fanciful ideas. They are based on my own, still fledgling knowledge of the Tree of Life, and maybe I get something wrong. So if you can, study up on the Tree on your own, because maybe what I come up with doesn't work as well for your own understanding.

So I'll end with the first mediation, for the first day of the Omer when it comes. Each meditation will be a single line, followed by some of my own insights into the meanings of the images. I picture each of these places on as being on a Hill, and I'll lay them out as I go.

Day one, Chesed she b'Chesed:

In the Purple Pool of Chesed stands the Purple Rock of Chesed, from which the water flows.

Perhaps this is the rock that Moshe struck in the desert. It's the very source of the pool of Lovingkindness, which lies among the rocks at the very top of the hill. At the heart of Chesed, which constantly sustains everything that exists, Chesed renews its own self constantly too.

Day two, Gevurah she b'Chesed:

At the bottom of the Purple Pool of Chesed lies the Blue Sword of Gevurah.

Very Arthurian, I know. But I like the image of Strength surrounded by, immersed in, Lovingkindness. And that some Lady of the Lovingkindess Lake might bestow the sword to the worthy at need.

Day three, Tiferet she b'Chesed:

In the shallows of the Purple Pool of Chesed grow the Green Reeds of Tiferet.

This is the Beauty of Lovingkindness. The reeds guarded Moses in the river, so I'm getting cradle-like place-of-refuge vibes here. Plus the flexibility implied by the reeds.

Day four, Netzach she b'Chesed:

At the bottom of the Purple Pool of Chesed glints the Golden Disc of Netzach.

The Eternity (or Victory) of Love. This is perhaps a coin, a treasure found within the pool, or a golden platter. There is an implication of physical riches - Grace in the sense of Charity, perhaps. When Lovingkindness gives you just the coin you need to win your struggle. And as gold never fades, so Netzach endures forever.

Day five, Hod she b'Chesed:

Beside the Purple Pool of Chesed lies the Copper Pan of Hod.

The Hod of Chesed is the Splendor of Love. A beautifully shining dish of copper, with which one can draw forth some water from the pool at need. Maybe even pan for that golden Netzach.

Day six, Yesod she b'Chesed:

From the Purple Pool of Chesed grows the Red Lotus of Yesod.

The Yesod is the lingam of the Tree of Life, the center of sexual energy and longing. Here we have the waters of Chesed feeding a striking flower that arises from the pool. Desire that springs from Love.

Day seven, Malkhut she b'Chesed:

Around the Purple Pool of Chesed Lie the Brown Banks of Malkhut.

Malkhut is about manifestation in this world. Here, the Malkhut of Lovingkindness is what give us access the the pool, the banks we can walk down to reach the wather.

Day eight, Chesed she b'Gevurah:

In the Blue Castle of Gevurah is the Purple Cup of Chesed.

Very grail-like. The mercy of the cup tempers the severity of Gevurah, and gives it purpose.

Day nine, Gevurah she b'Gevurah:

In the Blue Castle of Gevurah stands the Blue Throne of Gevurah.

The seat of power, of Judgement. The Center of Strength.

Day ten, Tiferet she b'Gevurah:

In a hidden courtyard of the Blue Castle of Gevurah grows the Green Garden of Tiferet.

A garden in the middle of the fortified castle. Beauty within Strength. Within the Strength of Gevurah is a place of balance and peace and even rest.

Day eleven, Netzach she b'Gevurah:

On the right arm of the throne in the Blue Castle of Gevurah sits the Golden Scepter of Netzach.

Eternity of Strength. The scepter of sovereignty by which authority the castle is ruled. The Will.

Day twelve, Hod she b'Gevurah:

On the left arm of the throne in the Blue Castle of Gevurah sits the Copper Orb of Hod.

Splendor of Strength. The orb is the microcosm, the model of the world through which Gevurah comprehends the nature of existence so that Strength can be applied at just the right point to effect whatever change is willed.

Day thirteen, Yesod she b'Gevurah:

In the Blue Castle of Gevurah stands the Red Tower of Yesod.

Foundation of Strength. The inner keep and central armory of the castle, meaning a place of fortitude and a place where the spiritual tools of Gevurah are stored. The Will that directs Strength.

Day fourteen, Malkhut she b'Gevurah:

In the gatehouse of the Blue Castle of Gevurah stand the Brown Doors of Malkhut.

The Manifestation of Strength. The doors are both protection and passageway, and form the gate through which Gevurah manifests in the world.

Day fifteen, Chesed she b'Tiferet:

On the Green Tree of Tiferet blooms the Purple Blossom of Chesed.

The Lovingkindess of Beauty. The blossom is what gives fragrance to the whole tree.

Day sixteen, Gevurah she b'Tiferet:

In the Green Tree of Tiferet roosts the Blue Hawk of Gevurah.

The Strength of Beauty. Watchful, swift, and balanced.

Day seventeen, Tiferet she b'Tiferet:

At the heart of the Green Tree of Tiferet springs forth the new Green Shoot of Tiferet.

The Beauty of Beauty. The nature of Tiferet is to ever renew itself from the central balance point of the Tree of Life.

Day eighteen, Netzach she b'Tiferet:

In the branches of the Green Tree of Tiferet preens the Golden Phoenix of Netzach.

The Eternity of Beauty. Once again with the ever-renewing imagery.

Day nineteen, Hod she b'Tiferet:

On a branch of the Green Tree of Tiferet sits the wise old Orange Parrot of Hod.

Okay, so a parrot is kinda odd, but it's what came to me. Also, Hod is Splendor, and parrots are quite splendid.

Day twenty, Yesod she b'Tiferet:

On the Green Tree of Tiferet hangs the Red Fruit of Yesod.

The Fruit of the Tree is a srtong archetype. In this case, the fruit of the tree of Beauty, of Balance, of Wholeness. That part of the Tree we can actually eat, and take into ourselves.

Day twenty-one, Malkhut she b'Tiferet:

At the foot of the Green Tree of Tiferet sits the Brown Rock of Malkhut.

I imagine it to be bench-like enough to sit upon and gaze at the garden all around. This is the Manifestation of Beauty, it's concrete form, which we can see in everyone and every thing around us.

Day twenty-two, Chesed she b'Netzach:

In the wall around the tree is the Golden Gate of Netzach, pierced by the latticed Purple Window of Chesed.

The energy of Netzach is a doorway through whatever obstacle you may find, but unless pierced by this window, who knows what lies behind the door, or if it's worth opening? Chesed lovingly gives a bit of grace to Netzach, letting us see a glimpse of the other side.

Day twenty-three, Gevurah she b'Netzach:

The Golden Gate of Netzach is fastened by the Blue Iron Bindings of Gevurah.

The Strength that upholds the structure of Eternity. The natural laws of the universe.

Day twenty-four, Tiferet she b'Netzach:

By the Golden Gate of Netzach grows the Green Shrubbery of Tiferet.

Mostly because I like the word 'shrubbery', but the image suggests the Life that abides in Eternity.

Day twenty-five, Netzach she b'Netzach:

The Golden Gate of Netzach is unlocked by the Golden Key of Netzach.

The Key to the Gate. That very thing within Netzach that can open a way through an obstacle.

Day twenty-six, Hod she b'Netzach:

The Golden Gate of Netzach swings on the Copper Hinges of Hod.

This gives a hint of how Hod is instrumental to Netzach, because without a hinge, a door isn't much of a door.

Day twenty-seven, Yesod she b'Netzach:

Leading up to the Golden Gate of Netzach is the Red Brick Road of Yesod.

Much like the carpet in the castle. In both cases, Yesod seems to be the road or path itself, and the desire to trave it.

Day twenty-eight, Malkhut she b'Netzach:

The Golden Gate of Netzach is set in the Brown Stone Wall of Malkhut.

The wall provides the context and support for the gate, but note that it is also the obstacle that the gate provides a way through.

Day twenty-nine, Chesed she b'Hod:

Beside the gate lies the Copper Basin of Hod, filled with the Purple Wine of Chesed.

Reminiscent of the big basin in the Temple. Hod is splendor, inspiring awe, and the wine of Chesed within is there to refresh the weary traveller.

Day thirty, Gevurah she b'Hod:

The Copper Basin of Hod sits on the Blue Elephant of Gevurah.

The Strength of Splendor. What directly supports it.

Day thirty-one, Tiferet she b'Hod:

The elephant under the Copper Basin of Hod sits on the Green Turtle of Tiferet.

The elephant may stand firm, but the turtle swims with grace.

Day thirty-two, Netzach she b'Hod:

To the east of the Copper Basin of Hod stands the Golden Lion of Netzach.

Netzach does have a very solar/leonine energy energy, to me. If Hod is a moment of splendor, the Netzach of that is the eternity of that moment. Eternity can be vertical to 'time'.

Day thirty-three, Hod she b'Hod:

To the south of the Copper Basin of Hod lies the Copper Snake of Hod.

I seem to recall there was some sort of copper serpent thingie in Temple times. Anyway, continuing with the iconic animal/direction/element kind of association.

Day thirty-four, Yesod she b'Hod:

To the west of the Copper Basin of Hod stands the Red Ox of Yesod.

Definitely going for the Ezekiel-style imagery here.

Day thirty-five, Malkhut she b'Hod:

To the north of the Copper Basin of Hod stands the Brown Bear of Malkhut.

A gentle bear, but very strong.

Day thirty-six, Chesed she b'Yesod:

Down the road, in the Red House of Yesod, lies the Purple Hearth of Chesed.

Yesod has the energy of will and desire; I see it as a center of the ego - hence the house. And warming that house is the hearth of lovingkindness.

Day thirty-seven, Gevurah she b'Yesod:

The Red House of Yesod is guarded by the Blue Door of Gevurah.

Hm, Strength as a Doorway. It can both keep out, and let in.

Day thirty-eight, Tiferet she b'Yesod:

In the Red House of Yesod is Green Carpet of Tiferet.

I picture this as the rug you always love to sink your toes into. A special, comfy place in the home, and thus a special place in the Self or Will that is Yesod.

Day thirty-nine, Netzach she b'Yesod:

In the Red House of Yesod stands the Yellow Table of Netzach.

The table bears up what is placed on it. Here in Yesod, Netzach is the energy of attention, a table at which we can examine what we will.

Day forty, Hod she b'Yesod:

In a window of the Red House of Yesod hang the Orange Curtains of Hod.

These glow with the splendor of the sunlight shining through them. The Hod of Yesod is the breaking through of divine effulgence into the house of the self.

Day forty-one, Yesod she b'Yesod:

Atop the Red House of Yesod is the Red Roof of Yesod.

As the house of Yesod shelters the self and its desires, so the roof shelters the house.

Day forty-two, Malkhut she b'Yesod:

In the Red House of Yesod lies the Brown Hearth-rug of Malkhut.

The hearth (Chesed) provides the warmth; the hearth-rug the place from which to snuggle up and feel it. The down-to-earth desires for good, wholesome food, a homely house, and the warmth of love.

Day forty-three, Chesed she b'Malkhut:

At the crest of the Brown Hill of Malkhut you'll find the Purple Pool of Chesed.

The Hill upon which everything stands.

Day forty-four, Gevurah she b'Malkhut:

Down from the pool atop the Brown Hill of Malkhut stands the Blue Castle of Gevurah.

I imagine a waterfall coming down from the pool, to run in a stream beside the castle.

Day forty-five, Tiferet she b'Malkhut:

On the slopes of the Brown Hill of Malkhut grows the Green Tree of Tiferet.

The stream mentioned above runs into a walled garden, at the center of which stands this Tree.

Day forty-six, Netzach she b'Malkhut:

The wall of the garden on the Brown Hill of Malkhut is entered through the Golden Gate of Netzach.

The stream would also flow under the wall, into the garden.

Day forty-seven, Hod she b'Malkhut:

Besides the gate to the orchard on the Brown Hill of Malkhut stands the Copper Basin of Hod.


Day forty-eight, Yesod she b'Malkhut:

The road from the garden on the Brown Hill of Malkhut leads down to the Red House of Yesod.


Day forty-nine, Malkhut she b'Malkhut:

Beneath the Brown Hill of Malkhut lies the Brown Earth of Malkhut.

What underlies existence itself, which is (paradoxically enough) ultimately empty - so it circles back to Ayin.