What is the Omer counting?
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
The omer refers to the 49-day period between the second night of Passover (Pesach) and the holiday of Shavuot. This period marks the beginning of the barley harvest when, in ancient times, Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking God for the harvest. The word omer literally means “sheaf” and refers to these early offerings.
The counting of the omer begins on the second night of Passover. Jews in the Diaspora generally integrate this counting into the second Seder. The omer is counted each evening after sundown.
An Ancient Custom
In Leviticus, the third book of the Torah, it says: "You shall count... from the day that you brought the omer as a wave offering" (23:15). "Omer" is a Hebrew word that means "sheaves of a harvested crop" and in ancient times Jews brought the omer to the Temple as an offering on the second day of Passover. The Torah tells us to count seven weeks from the bringing of the Omer until the evening of Shavuot, hence the custom of counting the Omer.
Lag BaOmer Celebrations
Lag BaOmer is a holiday that takes place on the 33rd day during the Omer count. It's a celebration of the anniversary on which Rabbi Shimon bar Yochi, a 2nd-century sage, revealed the secrets of the Zohar, a Kaballah text of mysticism. Restrictions are put on hold for the day and people can throw parties and weddings, listen to music and get their hair cut. Families go on picnics and in Israel, the tradition includes bonfires and field trips in which kids play with bows and arrows.
Although Jews no longer bring omer to the Temple, the 49 days are still called "the Omer." Many kabbalists (Jewish mystics) saw it as a period of preparing oneself to receive the Torah by reflecting on how to become a better person.
We commemorate receiving the Torah 49 days after Passover on Shavuot,
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