Visu­al Arts

Omer Cal­en­dar of Bib­li­cal Women

  • Review
By – May 20, 2024

Count­ing the forty-nine days of the Omer, which takes place between the sec­ond day of Passover and the start of Shavuot, is based on a bib­li­cal com­mand­ment about har­vest­ing. Dur­ing this time, we can pre­pare our­selves spir­i­tu­al­ly for Shavuot and do inner work on our souls. In Kab­bal­ah, each week of the sev­en-week Omer is asso­ci­at­ed with a dif­fer­ent attribute. Each day of these sev­en weeks is also asso­ci­at­ed with one of the attrib­ut­es, or sefirot, mak­ing forty-nine dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions — each rep­re­sent­ing a part of our selves that has the poten­tial to be improved. Jill Hammer’s newest book, Omer Cal­en­dar of Bib­li­cal Women, pro­vides us with the per­fect guide­book to do just that. 

If the book sounds famil­iar to you, you’re not wrong. Ham­mer first wrote the cal­en­dar in 2003 for Ma’yan: The Jew­ish Women’s Project of the JCC in Man­hat­tan. It was also post­ed on Rit­u­al­well. Now, it’s in book form for us to use, learn from, and enjoy.

The sefirot of the Omer include chesed (love or lov­ingkind­ness), gevu­rah (strength or judg­ment), tifer­et (beau­ty or bal­ance), net­zach (endurance, per­sis­tence), hod (glo­ry or grat­i­tude), yesod (inti­ma­cy), and malchut (roy­al­ty or whole­ness). Each of these has some vari­a­tion or nuance that Ham­mer delves into in her book. 

The book is a col­lec­tion of entries, one for each day of the Omer. All entries focus on a dif­fer­ent bib­li­cal woman who embod­ies qual­i­ties of the sefirot of that day. It’s an expan­sive intro­duc­tion to women of Jew­ish texts. We read about Miri­am, Vashti, Idit, Dinah, Asnat, Batya, Tamar, and Chul­dah. We also learn about Devo­rah, who embod­ies gevu­rah she­betifer­et—judg­ment with truth and com­pas­sion — and Eli­she­va, the sis­ter of Nach­son ben Ami­na­dav who embod­ies tifer­et she­be­hod, or com­pas­sion with­in glo­ry. Ham­mer always includes a short verse from the Bible, enabling read­ers to find the women’s sto­ries on their own. Less than a full page long, these entries make the prac­tice of count­ing the Omer acces­si­ble. There are also vibrant illus­tra­tions of select­ed women, which break up the text and chal­lenge our pre­con­ceived notions about the women’s appearance. 

If you’re look­ing for some­thing new to count the Omer, want to explore the kab­bal­is­tic aspects of the rit­u­al, or are inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about Jew­ish women of the Bible, Omer Cal­en­dar of Bib­li­cal Women is a per­fect intro­duc­tion. It’s infor­ma­tive with­out being over­whelm­ing. And even if Kab­bal­ah isn’t your thing, the book is a won­der­ful addi­tion to fem­i­nist Jew­ish bookshelves. 

Jaime Hern­don is a med­ical writer who also writes about par­ent­ing and pop cul­ture in her spare time. Her writ­ing can be seen on Kveller, Undark, Book Riot, and more. When she’s not work­ing or home­school­ing, she’s at work on an essay collection.

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