I have so much to be grateful in that my husband survived the virus, baruch Hashem. I have much to be saddened by, with the passing of my mother-in-law Mindel Perel bas Yisrael HaLevi and cousin Rachel bas Pinchas. Thankful arrivals and grief-stricken virtual funerals were a strange cocktail mix to start off the holiday season of Passover. As I’m writing this, T’hilim groups are having 24-hour prayer vigils for my dear friend fighting for her breath. I’ve listened to endless Torah lectures involving the purpose, message, and timing of this pandemic. While the sirens wail in the background as if it’s the soundtrack of the times, I deeply ponder what the real message is for klal Yisrael and particularly the “Orthodox” enclaves. Was it the synagogue that stayed opened past the public warning? Is it the people of a particular age group that fail to understand their role in spreading this highly contagious disease? Is it the constant judgment and blame against Jewish women wearing sheitels, shorter skirts, or lipstick? Is it gossip, hatred, ego, and/or lack of the true spiritual connection to G-d?
If there is a universal theme that’s being recognized, it’s the issue of being alone. There are no distractions to avoid the concept of self. What I mean to write is G-d has placed you alone to re-examine the relationship you have with Him. This time should be spent to redefine who you, as an individual, are, without blame, judgment, bravado, or obligation. Therefore, as G-d has the master plan for everything, at this time we enter into the period of S’firas HaOmer. Last year, I wrote an article about this subject in connection with the precious stone of Sapphire, bridging the famous jewelry pieces of Napoleon, Princess Diana, and Elizabeth Taylor. Somehow, royal adornment has no particular importance right now, yet the connection is still relevant.
The period of the counting of the Omer is a time of potential for inner growth and character refinement (midos) through reflection and development of one aspect each day for the 49 days of the counting.
In Kabbalah, each of the seven weeks of the Omer-counting is associated with one of the seven lower s’firos:
Each day of each week is also associated with one of these same seven s’firos, creating 49 permutations.
The Hebrew word for sapphire is sapir. The Hebrew word “s’firah” has several meanings. The famous Kabbalist, the RaMaK, in his monumental work the “Pardes,” writes that “s’firah” comes both from the root meaning “counting” (mispar, number) and “sipur” (as in relating a story). A third root of “s’firah” is “sapir,” a sapphire stone, which is a translucent crystal that shines brightly.
The end result of the Omer is the ultimate refined state we have become in order to properly receive the Torah from G-d. The third holiday of the Shalosh R’galim is the grand finale of Shavuos. All this work leads us to the glorious conclusion of Matan Torah, the arrival of The Ten Commandments.
Both sets of tablets (Luchos) were carved of sapphire stone. After Moshe broke the first set, G‑d revealed a large deposit of sapphire under his tent. He recycled some of the stone to carve the second tablets, and was permitted to keep the remainder as his own personal riches (Rashi to Exodus 34:1).
Learning more about this divine stone in N’viim (the Prophets) finds the sapphire as the material used in G-d’s throne of Glory. There is certainly more kabbalistic thoughts about the stone having the power of wisdom and the third eye.
The Torah taught us the appreciation and value of this precious stone. The counting of the Omer is our chance to polish and perfect our own personal sapphire with daily exercise of thought and self-awareness – allowing us the 49 days of labor to prepare for G-d to grant us the ultimate privilege of giving us His Torah, written on the most glorious of sapphire stones.
Use this divinely allotted time wisely to focus on your own personal sapphire stone. Ask yourself these questions: What could you do better to improve the world? What can you do better to help someone else? What can you do better to contribute to a greater good? How can you polish your guf and neshamah (body and soul) to shine the most brilliant sapphire blue?
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.