Why do we count the Omer?

By Laura Seymour

Help — we made it through the Seder but did you forget what comes next? In all your planning for the big event, don’t forget the next step — COUNTING THE OMER! Counting the Omer is a commandment through which we count the days from the second night of Passover and continue for 49 days until Shavuot. Today there are many resources on how to do this from a few different apps that help remind you with a little learning each day to a brand new coloring book to focus your thoughts called “Color the Omer: 49 Days of Beauty and Reflection” by Shari Berkowitz (yes, it is available on Amazon!).

But what about the important question of why do it? Rabbi Ruth Adar wrote an article in 2015 called “Why Count the Omer? Five Reasons (and Counting!)” Here is a brief summary of her reasons:

• G-d said to: In Leviticus 23:15-16 it says “You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach, when an omer (barley sheaf) of grain is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks…” It marked the time to give sacrifices to the Temple.

• It connects Passover to Shavuot: We are reminded that Passover is not over until we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Sinai on Shavuot. Freedom, then responsibility — we remember that the process is not complete.

• It fosters self-improvement: The Kabbalists connect the seven weeks of seven days to the seven sefirot. Another tradition is to study Pirkei Avot during this time, which is filled with advice on how we should act.

• It’s an expression of anticipation: When excited, we count the days to that event, preparing ourselves for an important day!

• It creates mindfulness: Adler says she sometimes has “ADD of the soul” and this is a way to improve our attention span for Torah and Jewish time.

Why else to do it? These are pretty good reasons and there are certainly more. Sometimes you have to do something and see how it works for you. Try it — it will definitely make you think! And even if you are starting a little late — it’s OK! Start now and put it in your calendar to remember for next year.

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

Leave a Reply