omer countWhat is the counting the omer (Sefirat haOmer)?

It is the practice of marking the 49-day journey from Passover (the holiday marking our exodus from Egypt) to Shavuot (the holiday that marks the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai) by saying a daily blessing, and identifying each specific day according to its number. 

Each day we say, “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and has commanded us concerning the counting of the omer.” We add to that, “Today is the _____ day of the counting of the omer.”

The origin of this practice can be found in the Torah, which commanded our ancestors to mark the time between the barley harvest and the wheat harvest by bringing an offering of a single omer (sheaf) of barley to the temple each day between Passover and Shavuot. (Leviticus 23: 10-16) 

That’s it! It’s as simple as that…or so you might think. In reality, when we get caught up with the details of our lives, it's easy to forget to count each day. It can be an effort just to differentiate one day from another. And how do we move beyond just counting each day to making each day count? Each week of this count we would like you to consider a question to help add a spiritual dimension to our 49 day journey to Mt Sinai. 

We invite you to share your thoughts each week on our Facebook page as each question is posted. 

Question #1:

The counting of the omer marks the journey between gaining our freedom and revelation on Mt Sinai, where we chose our path as people and accepted the covenant with God. Imagine you had seven weeks to prepare yourself for an encounter with God. What would you do to prepare?

Study text:

"Revelation, like Creation, is an eternal process. The real faith-question regarding revelation, like that of Creation, is not 'Do you believe that it happened just that way, so many years ago?' It is rather, 'Are you present to revelation here and now?' Are our inner eyes open to hearing the eternal message that calls out to us in every moment of existence? That message, the true essence of revelation, is Torah in its broadest sense, and its call may come through a great variety of channels."

Rabbi Arthur Green, Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow

Question #2:

In what ways do you use time wisely? What are the ways that you waste time?

Study text:

In the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 31a teaches — Raba said; When man is led in for Judgment [called to account before God] he is asked; “Did you deal faithfully [with integrity], did you fix times for learning, did you engage in procreation, did you hope for salvation, did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom, did you understand one thing from another?”

Question #3:

How do you feel about spending time alone? Is it important?

Study text:

“Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone; may it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grass and all growing things, and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer.” - Nachman of Bratzlav, Maggid Sichot, 48

Question #4:

What are the qualities that you are most proud of in your own life?

Study text:

"God created human beings in the divine image." (Genesis 1:27) What if we could say "all your qualities are wonderful, but beyond all that you matter because you are in the image of God? There is an essence in you that is only yours—your divine spark. God loves you, and that love never changes." -- Rabbi David Wolpe

Question #5:

What makes one a “wealthy” person?

Study text:

"Who is rich? One who is happy with his portion, as it is written, 'When you eat the labor of your hands, happy will you be and all will be well with you.'" -- Psalm 128:2

Question #6:

Community is an essential part of what it means to be Jewish. In what ways do you connect with the Jewish community?

Study text:

"A talmid chacham (Torah scholar) is not allowed to live in a city that does not have these 10 things: a beit din (law court) that metes out punishments; a tzedakah fund that is collected by two people and distributed by three; a synagogue; a bath house; a bathroom; a doctor; a craftsperson; a blood-letter; (some versions add: a butcher); and a teacher of children" -- Sanhedrin 17b

Question #7:

During the counting of the Omer we are asked to count 49 days. The question truly being asked by our tradition is: Are you making your life count? How do you know?

Study text: 

From ”Tales of the Hasidim" by Professor Martin Buber

Once, the Hassidic rabbi Zusya came to his followers with tears in his eyes. They asked him: "Zusya, what's the matter?”

And he told them about his vision: "I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life."

The followers were puzzled. "Zusya, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?"

Zusya replied; "I have learned that the angels will not ask me, 'Why weren't you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?' and that the angels will not ask me, 'Why weren't you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?"' Zusya sighed. "They will say to me, 'Zusya, why weren't you Zusya?'"