2003The holidays of Passover and Shavuot are connected by a 49-day period known as the Omer. In Temple times a daily barley sacrifice was offered during this time. Although the Temple is no longer standing, there is still a commandment to count the Omer every night. This is done by indicating how many days and weeks have passed since the beginning of the period. The source for this mitzvah is in this week's Torah portion, Parshat Emor.
Counting and More Counting
Leviticus chapter 22:15-16
And you shall count from the next day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete;
To the next day after the seventh Sabbath shall you count fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal offering to the Lord.
Your Torah navigator
1. Why do we have to count 49 days?
2. What is the signification of the seven times seven (seven weeks of seven days)?
3. Do we still have to count if we don't have a place to bring the "new meal
Soncino Zohar, Vayikra, Section 3, Page 97b
"They were to count "for themselves", so as to be purified with supernal holy waters, and then to be attached to the King and to receive the Torah. The people had to count seven weeks. Why seven weeks? That they might be worthy to be cleansed by the waters of that stream which is called "living waters," and from which issue seven Sabbaths."
You're Zohar Navigator
1. According to the Zohar, why do we have to count "for ourselves"?
2. Why do we need to be purified?
3. How can one become purified?
4. What are the "living waters"?
A Word: I Want to Be Better
The Omer count comes at the perfect time of the year: It is spring - everything is growing, flourishing, and moving forward. The counting of the Omer gives us a similar opportunity to grow and move forward. Over the 49 days of the Omer we should look to work on and change one issue or character trait of ourselves. By taking this opportunity for self-reflection and introspection, we feel better about ourselves and the world around us. Hopefully, we also know ourselves better. We all have the desire and yearning to change ourselves and change the world. But to do this requires time: we must set goals and work diligently to achieve them. If we want to succeed in improving our self-awareness and realizing our full potential, we have to start somewhere. Counting the Omer is the perfect place.
Prepared by Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, Campus Rabbi/Jewish Educator, University of Maryland College Park.
Additional commentaries and text studies on Emor at MyJewishLearning.com.