Counting the Omer (Sefirat Ha-Omer) refers to marking the days between the second day of Passover – when a sheaf of newly harvested barley was brought to the Temple as an offering – and the first day of Shavuot, celebrating the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai.
You shall count for yourselves seven weeks.
From when the sickle is first put to the standing crop
Shall you begin counting seven weeks.
Then you will observe the Festival of Shavuot for the Lord, your God. – Deuteronomy 16:9-10
For more about the specifics, and some great resources, check out our 2012 blog, Counting the Omer.
In her recent article in the huffingtonpost.com, Rabbi Yael Levy explains that
“Counting the Omer is a 49-day mindfulness practice aimed at helping us pay attention to the movement of our lives, to notice the subtle shifts, the big changes, the yearnings, the strivings, the disappointments, the hopes and the fears.”
It is in this spirit that she is again providing daily practices for us to follow, along this journey.
I purchased her book last year, as well, called Journey Through the Wilderness: a Mindfulness Approach to the Ancient Jewish Practice of Counting the Omer.
Prayers & Background
To find the prayers to recite, with some of the rules that govern how and when you say them, check out this link from chabad.org.
Or, for a thorough overview of counting the Omer, this article from myjewishlearning.com does a great job.
I’m new at this Counting the Omer process. Last year was the first time I followed along.
Connection to the Harvest
And, as with most Jewish holidays that have agricultural roots, I am fascinated by that connection with the festival. (Wish I could find the paper I wrote as a grad student about the agricultural roots of Passover!)
Imagine this scene, as painted by dailykos.com,
“Counting the Omer began as an agricultural ritual. People would go out into the fields each night and, just as they saw three stars in the sky, would wave an omer – a sheaf of barley – to ask for a good harvest.”
I don’t know whether or not the power for me is in reminding me of my summer on kibbutz, where sustenance depended on a good harvest.
In any case, I’d better get counting.