Omer Themes (6)

Omer Essay WEEK #1: Nurturing Self-Honor

"Who can we be?"

Let’s just state the obvious…we live in a world filled with suffering. By creating us as creatures with free will, God gifted humanity with the choice of performing good or evil. We have all felt shock and grief in response to the horrific events of October 7 in Israel. We are frightened by rising antisemitism in North America and Europe. And we are all wondering what the future will bring.


The journey that the Israelites took as they left Egypt was one of trepidation and faith. According to the Talmud, only 20% of them had the courage to leave the enslavement that they knew so well and risk everything in the hope of obtaining freedom and the right to live as free people. For us today, we have our grief, but we also have been given an opportunity to move toward something else, to embrace the struggle and journey through uncertainty and move toward the hope of more light. The question is collective and it is also personal:


What do we believe we are capable of becoming?


Crisis can be a vehicle for growth. We as a Jewish nation and a people are asking ourselves, “What are we willing to die for? What are we living for? Just who are we really and what do we stand for?” The world is broken, but just imagine what the world could be!


As we count the Omer together as a TMI community, we invite you to undertake a special personal challenge - to set a small goal for yourself, to determine what might be preventing you from achieving this goal, and to put practical steps in place to achieve this goal.


We are asking that you use this challenging time of crisis as an impetus to grow. Personally, I’ve experienced a whirlwind of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual growth in the past couple of years, and yet I am aware that there is definitely room for improvement. In preparation for our Omer program, I asked myself, “If everything else stayed the same, what one change could I make that would create the biggest positive impact?”


I concluded that I am not offering my authentic self to the world nearly enough. If my ultimate goal is to live with faith and humility, then I need to embrace the qualities that God gifted me with. If I hide them away, not only am I not honoring God, but I’m not honoring myself and my own potential. I need to stop pretending, to stop sucking in the edges, trying to fit a square into a round hole.


Wouldn’t it be a relief to just be unapologetically myself?


Helaine and I invite you to honor yourself by asking, “What are your self-limiting beliefs or habits that you want to change? Who do you aspire to become? What is hindering you from reaching your potential?” Honor yourself by identifying one small thing you can change over the next seven weeks. For me, it’s not a specific behavior that I want to do less of like gossiping or watching too much TV, and it’s not one concrete thing I want to implement such as visiting my grandparents once a month. But for you, you get to determine where you want to take yourself. Your destination can be anywhere and anything. Please email us at and share your goal.


Blessings for the journey,


Naomi Wittlin attributes her renewed interest in Jewish learning to studying Mussar with The Mussar Institute for almost ten years. She is a Manchim Program graduate, completed the Advanced Facilitator cohort with Julie Dean, and co-facilitates a va’ad in Houston, TX. She traveled to Israel four years ago with TMI. Naomi recently completed her Masters in Jewish Studies at Gratz College and is currently a rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York. She is a writer, mother, and mixed-media artist and incorporates themes of Jewish texts into her artwork. She has an amazing 15-year-old daughter and a supportive husband of 22 years.  She is a dedicated student and facilitator of Mussar whose passion is watching people grow toward their spiritual potential and make lasting transformations in their lives. You can find her spiritual reflections, artwork, and monthly book reviews at

Questions for Reflection:

1. Think about who you wish to become. What is one small active step you can take in that direction?

2. What is your personal WHY, your kavannah/intention?

3. Can you identify a self-limiting belief that you have been wanting to let go of?

4. Ask yourself: How can I be more present and engaged in my daily life?

5. Is there a way I can better honor myself or others in my life? What might that look like?

thank you

Special Dedication:

This first week of Omer on the theme of Nurturing Self-Honor is co-sponsored by Calyah Chanah Isaacs with an enormous outpouring of Honor by the following:


Rick & Tina Dinitz, Debbie Brown, Sharon Schwartz, Deborah Staiman, Felice Joyce, Julie August, Alan Fisher, Henri Vogel, John Isenberg, Nina Gelman-Gans, Kate Shane, Ronnie Dubrowin, Evie Weinstein, Susan Schwartz, Roann Altman, Isha Mayim, Kit Rebalsky, Nicole Frank, Bob Rottenberg, Roz Keller, Cathy Chandler-Klein, Emily Siegel, Bryan Almond, Dan Chandler, Barbara Carnam, Margaret Holeb, Harriet Bye & Larry Sawyer, Cedar Dvorin, Faith Mason and Vikki Ziskin, and the 12-Step Mussar Va’ad, in loving memory of our members Bonnie Leopold, Judah Rosen and Judith Beltz.


Acknowledging the honor shown to me by my co-sponsors, I note the honor due to this illustrious group of Mussar supporters, to our teachers, and to the people working behind the scenes to keep TMI running and working for our community.