Why do we find that Breslover Chassidim scream and pray with such intensity in the Mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer?
The Mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer is seemingly an easy Mitzvah. All we need to do is to say, “Today is … days of the Omer.” But in reality, some of the greatest secrets are contained with it. Each day one specific heavenly Sefirah shines its own individual light in its own way. The Rebbe teaches that even everything which people discuss between themselves every day of Sefira, is in accordance with the light of that day’s Sefirah, even though they themselves are unaware. (See Likutei Moharan I 182)
Of course, we can’t cover the entire subject of Sefiras HaOmer in such a short article. It’s recommended that you take time to study the teachings of the Tzaddikim which provide many practical approaches towards Sefiras HaOmer. But we will still discuss the simple understanding of Sefiras HaOmer as a preparation for the imminent Kabbolas HaTorah on Shavuos. The most important preparation is the yearning and anticipation for the renewal of our Yiddishkeit on Shavuos.
If we would take a good look at what happens in our lives, we would see that what we are missing in Avodas Hashem is essentially the lack of practical guidance. Every day, each of us passes through so many types of experiences, and we don’t find a way to draw close to Hashem from within them. In reality, there is something we can do in every situation, but everyone needs a different individual solution ,depending on the time and the place. One person can’t tell someone else what he needs to do. Every person has to call out to Hashem himself, until He enlightens him with a new understanding of his circumstances, and perhaps a simple, practical idea as to how to properly deal with what he’s going through.
This is preparation for Kabbolas HaTorah. Every day of Sefiras HaOmer, according to the Sefirah of that day, new understandings and pathways open for us in order to help us correct our negative character traits or immoral desires. But everything depends upon our enthusiasm and faith that every day of Sefirah is an opportunity to find new ways to draw near to Hashem. (For further elaboration, see Likutei Halachos, Rosh Chodesh 6:7)
Try hard to use these precious moments of Sefirah. Take a few minutes every day to try awakening your genuine longing for Hashem which you already have in your heart. Verbalize them, and pray and request from Him that He should assist you to approach the holy Torah anew, and to always help you find your proper path.
If you see that despair has already begun to take a hold of you, with thoughts such as, ‘can I even change?’ and ‘what can my prayers help?’, then realize that this is precisely the Avodah of Sefirah; stubbornly standing strong day after day, ‘yes, I’m waiting and anticipating my salvation, and I’m not giving up, I’m counting day after day!’
Just the thought that I’m going to have to shout so much by Sefiras HaOmer makes the entire Mitzvah burdensome on me. Do I have to force myself to scream?
Avodas Hashem is not a competition who can scream louder or for the longest time. There is no duty to scream. It isn’t even a custom … It’s something authentic for someone who understands that we are heading towards something immense.
Everything in Avodas Hashem becomes cumbersome when you make a plan for yourself to copy what you’ve seen in others, or even what you’ve seen by yourself in past successes, and you try to make your Avodah look like that. Thus we find entire Tefillos becoming confused just from checking the entire time if you feel anything, or are you crying, are you screaming enough, etc. This is literally a foreign thought in the middle of davening. The Rebbe teaches in Likutei Moharan II 95, “During the recital of prayers it’s necessary to distance oneself from every form of outside thoughts in the world, and to direct your mind only to the words which you are speaking to Hashem.”
Don’t make any plans, and approach the Mitzvah in an exalted frame of mind, “I am going to bring satisfaction to Hashem in performing this Mitzvah.” Don’t look at anyone else. The Torah writes, “Count for you” – for yourself. Everyone has his own special Sefirah, his own private longing for Hashem. (See Hil’ Pesach 9)
Keep your mind on what you are saying. While reciting the Brachah, concentrate on the simple idea that Hashem has sanctified us with His Mitzvos, and thank Him for inviting you to become sanctified through His Mitzvos. While actually accounting, again keep in mind the simple yearning and anticipation, one day closer to Kabbolas HaTorah. Say the prayers after the Sefirah slowly, without pressure. Just pay attention to the words you are saying.
The more you connect to the straightforward message of the Mitzvah without troubling yourself how you have to scream and how you have to contemplate this and that, etc., the more you will become truly inspired to count the Omer correctly every day. You may even merit a few days out of the Sefirah to actually scream and let out your heart to Hashem.
Our intention here is not to stop you from screaming until you feel you are doing so authentically. Of course, you can come to inspiration through your voice also, and your heart can thereby also be inspired to scream. But the main thing is to connect with the genuineness of the Mitzvah, without looking to scream.
It’s highly recommended that you study a Halacha or two from Likutei Halachos on Sefiras HaOmer. If you need help finding something, you can use the Otzar HaYirah, which summarizes all of Reb Noson’ teachings. Think about what you have learned, and discuss it with your friends, and try to come to an understanding of what your Avodah will be this year throughout the days of Sefirah.
Throughout the day, try to think about what you’ve learned. For example, in Hil’ Pikadon 4 Reb Noson writes that Sefiras HaOmer is a time to internalize that every day in a person’s life is important, even though many times it seems as if a day doesn’t count because of all the troubles and bothers of that day. We therefore say “Today is the … day …” when we count the days of Sefirah, to internalize that every day is counted, and every day can be used to serve Hashem.
Take such an idea, and remind yourself of it throughout the day, and not just during the actual counting of the Omer. ‘Today is a day!’ You will thereby merit a new yearning for Kabbolas HaTorah.