Topics: Shavuot

Have You Heard of Counting the Omer?

This is a very special season with deep spiritual significance

Counting the Omer in Israel.
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:15-16

We are currently in a very special season on the Jewish calendar. Jewish people throughout the world are commemorating what is called the “Counting of the Omer.” The counting takes place once a day beginning on the second day of Passover and ending on the Feast of Shavuot. It serves as a period of reflecting on the process of spiritual transformation from slavery to redemption lasting a total of seven weeks.

When the people of Israel were freed from Egypt, their mentality remained one of slavery following hundreds of years of relentless suffering and hard labor under Pharaoh’s rule.

Thus, this was a period of fundamental change for Israel. However, change isn’t always immediate; it often takes time to develop and become whole. Therefore, a significant period of time is necessary in order to complete the process of fully understanding the meaning of being transformed from slavery to redemption. Thus, 7 times 7 weeks.

This process of change brings about daily challenges. We are in constant need of asking ourselves if we’re still living in a sense of moral slavery. Are we still judging others? Are we praising and thanking God for all of the blessings He has bestowed upon us? Are we acting with mercy and lovingkindness towards ourselves and others? Each day, we inch closer to completing the spiritual transformation from slavery to redemption.

This season also teaches us to look at our holidays not simply as a time of gathering and celebration with our families as a cultural expression. Instead, we should be encouraged to understand their deep significance and seek to be edified by the lessons they teach us.

Interestingly, the climax of the Counting of the Omer is when Israel received the Torah on Mount Sinai. This is what we commemorate on the holiday of Shavuot. It is vital that upon receiving such great spiritual responsibility we have completed our transformation from slavery to redemption. It is important that we have prepared ourselves with complete faith in God, trusting him with every step we take.

God, in his sovereignty, gives us this opportunity for spiritual transformation each year. Let us take up the challenge and embrace the change that is being offered to us. We can be like the children of Israel and come before God’s word, the Torah, on Shavuot and say with full confidence, “naase v’nesham,” “We will do everything the Lord has said.”

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