Counting the Omer

What is the Counting of the Omer?

Sefirat HaOmer, Counting the Omer, refers to the 49-day period between the first night of Passover (the holiday celebrating our redemption by God from Egypt) and the festival of Shavuot (the holiday celebrating the giving of Torah by God at Mt. Sinai). During this time, it is traditional to count each day as a way to spiritually prepare to “receive Torah” and recommit ourselves to our Jewish lives and/or spiritual commitments.

How do we count the Omer?

Counting the Omer each night means reciting a blessing and literally counting each day of the 49-day period. Follow these links to resources to help support this practice:

Reform Judaism’s Guide to Counting the Omer

A Musical Blessing for Counting the Omer

Week Two of the Omer – Gevurah / Strength

In Pirkei Avot (4:1) we read, “Who is strong? The ones who can overcome their evil inclinations.” What did the Sages mean when they stated that real strength comes not from physical prowess, but from overcoming our evil inclinations? Drives and inclinations are a natural part of the human make-up. At times they can be a source of creativity and productivity. Other times they can also lead us down paths that are harmful to us or others. A person of strength is one who is able to discern between healthy and unhealthy drives

and who can then resist being controlled by their unhealthy impulses. One who is strong is also one who can set limits and boundaries – who knows how to say “yes” when “yes” is the right response and can say “no” when “no” is the healthier way.

Week One of the Omer – Chesed / Lovingkindness

Mystical Judaism assigns one spiritual quality (middah) to each week of the Omer to help deepen our practice of counting. During this first week, which begins on Tuesday evening, April 23 – April 29, we focus on the middah of chesed, or lovingkindness.

In Psalm 89 we read, “The world is built on lovingkindness (chesed).” Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe teaches that chesed means recognizing the great needs experienced by others and then following through to help alleviate those needs. While chesed can come in the form of material help, it can also be demonstrated through the sharing of our time, attention and empathy. Rabbi Wolbe explains that the greatest form of chesed is solidarity, or bearing the burden with the other, reminding our neighbors that they are not alone.

Each day this week, as we count the Omer, let us focus on how we can add a sense of lovingkindness to the world.