Shalom, everyone! Sefirat HaOmer or the “Counting of the Omer” is the verbal counting of each of the days between the first yom tov (day of rest) of the Chag HaMatzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). The Creator commanded in the Torah that the Nation of Yisra’el 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 Nation of Yisra’el were commanded to bring an Omer-measure of barley and a lamb as a communal offering to The Creator. 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.
How to Count the Omer
The blessing recited before counting the omer is as follows:
“Blessed are you, YHVH Eloheinu, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.”
The blessing is then followed by the stating the omer count in terms of days, and then the total count in the number of weeks and days, incrementing each day, For example, the count of the omer is made as follows during the first fifteen weeks:
- On Day 1: Today is the first day of the Omer;
- On Day 2: Today is two days of the Omer;
- On Day 3: Today is three days of the Omer
- On Day 4: Today is four days of the Omer
- On Day 5: Today is five days of the Omer
- On Day 6: Today is six days of the Omer
- On Day 7: Today is seven days, which is one week of the Omer;
- On Day 8: Today is eight days, which is one week and one day of the Omer;
- On Day 9: Today is nine days, which is one week and two days of the Omer;
- On Day 10: Today is ten days, which is one week and three days of the Omer;
- On Day 11: Today is eleven days, which is one week and four days of the Omer;
- On Day 12: Today is twelve days, which is one week and five days of the Omer;
- On Day 13: Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days of the Omer;
- On Day 14: Today is fourteen days, which is two weeks of the Omer;
- On Day 15: Today is fifteen days, which is two weeks and one day of the Omer…and so on
The count of the Omer will continue daily, incrementing the number of days and weeks, until the 50th day, the evening of Shavuot.
Sefirat HaOmer represents a time of spiritual preparation for and anticipation of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavuot. Each day of the count represents an additional elevation of our souls from the lowly status of being in bondage in Egypt, to the higher status of being a citizen of an independent kingdom ruled by The Creator of the Universe.