Shalom, everyone! Sefirat HaOmer or the “Counting of the Omer” is the verbal counting of each of the days between the first Shabbat after the end of the Chag HaMatzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). YAH commanded in the Torah that the B’nei Yisrael were to begin counting the days from the day that the first sheaf offering was waved before Him:
“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD.” – Leviticus 23:15-16
In ancient times, the first sheaf of the barley harvest, the first-fruits, was waved as an offering on the day after the first day of rest of Chag HaMatzot, the 16th of Aviv. Until this wave offering was brought, consumption of bread, parched grain or fresh grain from the new harvest was forbidden (Leviticus 23:9-14). The counting of the omer would continue for 50 days until the holiday of Shavuot.
For the duration of Sefirat HaOmer, the B’nei Yisrael were commanded to bring an Omer-measure of barley and a lamb as a communal offering to YAH. This practice continued until the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. From that time onward until the present day, the counting now begins each day at 30 minutes after sunset by reciting a special blessing and then stating the Omer count in terms of days, and then the total count in the number of weeks and days. For example, on the eighth day of the Omer, they will count as follows, “Today is eight days, which is one week and one day of the Omer.”
Sefirat HaOmer represents a time of spiritual preparation for and anticipation of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavuot.