Tradition Today: But who’s Counting?

The Torah does not permit us to count persons. That is a great lesson: people are not numbers. They are individual souls created in God’s image. We have learned all too tragically what happens when people cease to be human and become nothing but numbers. But the Torah does permit – even mandates – counting days: “And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering, the day after the Sabbath, you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week – fifty days: then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

We are now in that period of time, Sefirat Ha’omer – Counting the Sheaf. But the name is misleading. We are not counting the omer, the sheaf. We are counting the days from the day we brought it until the 50th day when a offering of new grain is brought. In other words, we are encompassing the spring harvest season. Why count 50 days rather than having a specific date for bringing the offering? Evidently the Torah wanted to emphasize the sacred number seven – seven times seven – leading up to the 50th day, which is another holy day – Shavuot.


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