We count all the time. If you have three kids, you count to three a lot: perhaps counting down to request a change in behavior, and sometimes counting up to make sure you have all three kids with you.
We count down to birthdays, weddings, vacations, and more. This time of year, however, the Jewish tradition of counting is quite different. Like the love we have for our children when we count up, at this time of year, we are counting up the days of the Omer. This counting began at our second-night Seder and will continue until we reach the number 49 and then we will mark the next day with the holiday of Shavuot.
In biblical times, like most of our holidays, this was about marking the beginning of the barley harvest. In this week’s Torah portion, Emor, we read, “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 God” (Lev. 23: 15–16).
In its original context, Shavuot was all about the barley. The holiday was later connected to the receiving of Torah and our entrance into a covenant with God.
As the counting of the Omer evolved from an agricultural holiday to a spiritual practice, our Sages opened the door for deep exploration at this time of year. Each night as we count the Omer, we are reminded that we live sacred time. We count up the days with excitement as we near the holiday of Shavuot.
Even if you’ve become lax in your counting, I encourage you to pick it up again. When we bring even a moment of acknowledgment to this practice, we let our Jewish identity shine, and we take a few minutes (or maybe more) to engage in an ancient tradition that grounds us in the chaos of busy days and weeks.
Tonight we say:
הַיוֹם עֶשְׂרִים וְשִׁבְעָה יוֹם שֶׁהֵם שְׁלוֹשָׁה שָׁבוּעוֹת שִׁישָׁה יָמִים לָעֹמֶר
Today is the 27th day, that is 3 weeks and 6 days, of the Omer.
Shavuot is all about our collective experience as a Jewish community. When we reach 49 days, I hope you will join us to celebrate Shavuot with our Reform Jewish community on June 8th at 6:00pm at Congregation Dor Tamid so we can celebrate the sweetness of Torah and the warmth of our community together as a Jewish people.