Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Counting the Omer

The time between Pesach and Shavuot is a period of time called the Counting of the Omer. What exactly are we counting and why? Well there are many traditions associated with the counting. First of all the counting is mentioned not once but twice in the Torah. First it is mentioned in Leviticus 25:15-16: "You shall count for yourselves -- from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving -- seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days..."

The second mention is in Deuteronomy 16:9-10:

You shall count for yourselves seven weeks, from when the sickle is first put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks. Then you will observe the Festival of Shavu'ot for the L-RD, your G-d"

Omer is referring to a sheave of wheat which is threshed, bundled, and prepared for sacrifice at the Temple. The counting begins the day after the Pesach Seder. I say 'the' Pesach Seder because inside of Israel there is only one. In the Diaspora the counting begins on the night of the second Seder.

The counting of the Omer has so many different meanings to so many different groups within Judaism. To the Kabbalists, each of the 7 weeks represents one of each of the 7 lower Sfirot. (Even after 2 years of academic study on Kabbalah I don't really understand the whole concept.) The Talmud tells us the Omer is a period of mourning. Traditionally the mourning is associated with the plague that wiped out 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students. According to the Talmud the students were struck with a plague for not honoring each other enough. Because it is a time of mourning it is forbidden to: Shave, cut ones hair, listen to music, have a party, or get married. There is one day where it is allowed to do all of these things: Lag'Bomer. It is a day of weddings and bonfires in Israel.

During the counting of the Omer I chose to follow certain traditions. Firstly I don't plan to get married during the Omer...I know that its not on the radar yet, but it will be one day. Most importantly I don't shave or cut my hair. Its a daily reminder of the counting and of the mourning. So on Wednesday night I got a haircut...haven't had one for quite awhile. I'll also be shaving for the last time tomorrow afternoon. The next haircut or shave will be on June 7th.

I'll be at Seder this year in Jerusalem for the first time in my life. I'm excited, every year we say "Next year in Jerusalem" and finally I will be.

As they say here Chag Pesach Sameach v'Kasher (חג פסח שמח וקשר) "A Happy and Kosher Pesach"


Phyllis Sommer said...

so wait, you're not going to get a haircut or shave on lag b'omer either? can't wait to see pics of the june 7th de-hair party!!!!!

p.s. why the hyphens in God?

Chag sameach!

Z-Dog said...

Check out CountTheOmer.com for omer reminders on your cell phone.