The Omer

headshot of Rabbi Sue Shankman

As the sun sets at the end of the first day of Passover, and we begin the second day of the holiday, we also begin our journey toward the festival of Shavuot with the counting of the Omer.

An omer is a sheaf of barley, a measurement used in ancient times in order to measure the amount of grain that would be brought as an offering to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the book of Leviticus (23:15-16), the Torah states, “You shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week – 50 days.” On the 50th day of the Omer, we will celebrate the festival of Shavuot and commemorate the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. 

Each night throughout this period known as the Omer, we recite a blessing and add one more day to our count. 

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al sefirat ha’omer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who sanctifies us with mitzvot, and commands us concerning the counting of the Omer.

It is interesting to note that generally, when we are anticipating an approaching date, whether it be a holiday, a birthday, or the (first/last) day of school, we count down. During the Omer, however, we count up. Each of us has something to add, something to contribute on our journey toward Shavuot, and our journey toward Sinai.

The Omer is often observed as a period of reflection that includes themes of spiritual growth. Each week we will focus on a specific theme and reflect on them through what are called Sephirot (divine emanations, attributes of God), and middot (Jewish values/virtues). Each day of the week, we will provide a text and a reflection for you to consider and relate to your personal life and your individual journey.

In this particular year, these themes can provide us opportunities to reflect on what we have gained, and may provide the space for us to grow spiritually in new ways. Over the course of the next seven weeks, as we move toward Sinai, and hopefully, our liberation from quarantine, we will be offering meditations and reflections each day of the Omer. It is our hope that these moments will lift you up, inspire, and provide strength along your journey.

 Please visit our dedicated Omer page daily to join us on the journey.