The scoop on Counting the Omer

Posted on 17 April 2014 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

seymourforweb2Passover can be overwhelming — too many Jewish things to do. Can we do them all? Good question but the better question is why do them? Many mitzvot “make sense” — we get it so we are more comfortable in doing them. Some seem more like ritual that we question why and whether to do them. The wonderful thing about “free will” is that we get to choose, but the reality is that for every choice there is a consequence. Many people don’t worry about the consequences as much as they should but that is another lesson.

Most of us have had our seder or seders and we are either “keeping Passover” or not. No one should judge another but we must judge ourselves — why follow one law and not another?  How do we follow a tradition or ritual? Why do it? This brings us to the ritual of today: Counting the Omer. Do we do it because we know it and understand it and believe it is something we should do? Do we not do because we have never heard of it or because we have chosen not to do it? These are really the important questions. However, for those of you wondering what it is I’m even talking about, here is the scoop on Omer counting:

There is a special period between Passover and Shavuot called “sefirah” meaning counting. The practice is observed from the night of the second seder until the eve of Shavuot. We are counting the days on which the Omer offering of the new barley crop was brought to the Temple — this connects the Exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Tradition has it that the Israelites were told that the Torah would be given to them 50 days after the exodus. They were so eager about it that they began to count the days, saying, “Now we have one day less to wait for the giving of the Torah.” The Torah text for this is Leviticus 23:15-16.

Throughout time, this period has been a sad reminder of the many massacres in Jewish history in the distant past and now in modern times. During this time period we observe by refraining from joyous events and other customs. The one “day off” is Lag B’Omer, which is the 33rd day.

Now you know the background but the question remains on adding this ritual to your lives. I recommend Google — find the commentary both ancient and modern. See what meanings have been given. Sometimes you have to do a ritual to find the meaning. Try it and you may find meaning for yourself and your family!

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.

Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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