There are forty-nine days or seven weeks between the Jewish holidays of Pesach, commonly known in English as Passover, and Shavuot. According to Jewish custom, these days are to be counted aloud. This counting is known as “counting of the Omer.” The seven weeks or forty-nine days is known as Sefirah. The exact beginning or end of this period is slightly different since there are different sects of Judaism that practice in different ways. Sefirah, however, always begins right before or right after the Passover festival, depending on the customs of people. In this article, you will learn about the meaning of Sefirah (Counting of the Omer) and how it relates to contemporary Jewish people.
The commandment for Sefirah (Counting of the Omer) first appeared in the biblical book of Leviticus. An omer is actually just a unit for measuring grain. The significance of this measurement is related to the fact that an omer of wheat was offered at the Temple on the second day of Passover, or Pesach. The reason Jewish people count each day between Passover and Shavuot is because they must prepare themselves to receive the Torah. It is a belief that the Jewish people were free from Egypt on Passover so that they could receive the Torah from G-d. The receiving of the Torah is what is celebrated on Shavuot. So Sefirah is a time of inner preparation.
A Jewish person is to observe Sefirah (Counting of the Omer) each evening of the forty-nine days with a prayer for each day. If a follower forgets to count on one evening, then that person may do the counting the next morning. The morning counting cannot, however, be said with a blessing or prayer. If a Jewish person forgets to count the Omer on a full day, from when the sun goes up to when the sun goes down, then he or she should continue to count the Omer for the remainder of Sefirah, but without the prayer or blessing. It is very important for an observant Jew to count the Omer with a blessing each and every day of the seven weeks.
Even though this custom is not as popular among many modern-day Jews as some other customs and celebrations, there are still many Jewish people who take Sefirah (Counting of the Omer) very seriously. As a matter of fact, there are even services that offer a reminder to count the Omer over email. The reminders describe the blessing to be said and provide a little extra help in remembering this important cultural practice at a time when many people are busy at their jobs.
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