Omer

Counting the Omer. Why do we Count?

Photo by  Melissa Askew  on  Unsplash

We are in the season of counting the Omer. Every Spring we begin counting the Omer on the second night of Passover. What is an Omer? The Omer is a sheaf or a measure of barley or wheat. The Omer is also the name for the 7 week period of time between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. On Passover, we celebrate our freedom from slavery and bondage and on Shavuot, we celebrate receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai as free people. In ancient times, the Omer period was significant agriculturally as it marked the period of time between planting and the spring and summer harvests. Over time, Jewish mystical tradition connected the Omer period with spiritual practices, about refining the soul, so we are ready to receive the Torah at Sinai

So, why do we count?
In order to move from a place of liberation to revelation, we are invited to use the act of counting to check in with ourselves. Our counting reminds us to take notice of each day and that no two days are the same. One of my teachers Rabbi Yael Janice Levy says that for 49 days we are mindful of the passage of time. We are encouraged to make each day count. In addition, our counting of the Omer encourages us to see this seven-week period as a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage that starts at Passover where we celebrate leaving Mitzriam, Egypt. The word Mitzriam also means a narrow place, a place of constriction and limitation of choice. Then we journey out into the open space, which is liberating and scary at the same time because it is also uncharted territory. In this open space of freedom, we may encounter doubt, uncertainty, and fear. And we journey on.