Counting the Omer
We are still within the Pesach Pause. Day 6 of 8. How has your Pesach journey been so far? Your alternative reality? Have you taken time to truly experience the Freedom you have? Have you learned anything new? Maybe and maybe not, don’t worry there is no judgment here! The good news is there is still time to explore and experience within the Pesach Pause. Even more lucky for us, our journey doesn’t stop when Pesach is over on Saturday night. In fact we have a long road ahead of us, 43 more days to be exact.
How can that be? What happens for 43 days? From the 2nd night of Passover until the night before Shavuot we count. We count the Omer. The reason I mention this now is because we are told to “count” in the Torah portion we read on the 8th day of Pesach, which falls this Shabbat. Specifically, “You shall count off seven weeks; start to count the seven weeks when the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall observe the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) for the LORD your God, offering your freewill contribution according as the LORD your God has blessed you (Deuteronomy 16:9-10).” The original mention of this “counting” is in the Book of Leviticus (23:15-16), “You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an omer of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to G-d.” In ancient times this period of time, the counting of the omer, referred to the beginning of the barley harvest when the Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple, to thank G-d for the harvest. The word omer itself literally means “sheaf.” However as the world changed, and agriculture wasn’t the only thing Jews celebrated during the holidays, so did the meaning behind counting the omer.
Keeping this in mind, today Shavuot also marks the time when we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, the core of our People. So, the counting of the Omer now not only celebrates our agricultural bounty, but also guides our steps between gaining our Freedom (Pesach) and our journey in the desert, until we reached the base of Mt. Sinai, and G-d gave us Torah (Shavuot). Each day we say a blessing to count the days, “Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech haolam, asher kiddishanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sefirat haOmer. Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe whose mitzvot add holiness to our lives and who gave us the mitzvah of counting the Omer.” Then we specify the day we are counting, “Hayom yom ____ la’omer. Today is the ____ of the Omer.” Each day we mark this huge journey in our History. This was the journey towards our Peoplehood. A journey we should not forget. A journey that G-d urges us to be a part of every year.
So tonight when the Yom Tov begins, the beginning of the end of Pesach, and tomorrow night when Shabbat begins, until the night before Shavuot, remember our journey. Count the Omer. Each night think about what it means to be Jewish. Think about what your Jewish identity means to you. Think about how you want to be in the world. Reflect on how your History, the Jewishness in your blood, and who you are as a person can change the world, make a difference, make the world a better place. Take the 43 days we have left of the Omer and go on a journey with yourself, your family, and your friends. Be inspired by our past, be inspired by who you are, and be inspired by all the possibilities that the future holds.
Chag Sameach and tomorrow night Shabbat Shalom!