The Counting of the Omer
Significance: Connects Pesach (Exodus) to Shavu'ot (giving of the Torah)
Observances: Count the number of days every night
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... -Leviticus 23:15-16
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
According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15), we are obligated to count the days from
Shavu'ot. This period is known as the Counting
of the Omer. An omer is a unit of measure. On the second day of Passover, in
the days of the Temple, an omer of barley was cut
down and brought to the Temple as an offering.
This grain offering was referred to as the Omer.
Every night, from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavu'ot, we
recite a blessing and state the count of the
omer in both weeks and days. So on the 16th day, you would say "Today is
sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer." The
Orthodox Union has a
chart that provides the transliterated Hebrew and English text of the counting
day-by-day. Or if you'd prefer an amusing (yet still accurate!) Simpsons-themed
discussion of the Omer along with an Omer calendar, check out
The Homer Calendar.
The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which
commemorates the Exodus, and Shavu'ot, which commemorates the giving of the
Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we
received the Torah.
This period is a time of partial mourning, during which weddings, parties, and
dinners with dancing are not conducted, in memory of a plague during the
lifetime of Rabbi Akiba. Haircuts during this time
are also forbidden. The 33rd day of the Omer (the eighteenth of
Iyar) is a minor holiday commemorating a break in
the plague. The holiday is known as Lag b'Omer. The mourning practices of the
omer period are lifted on that date. The word "Lag" is not really a word; it is
the number 33 in Hebrew, as if you were to call the Fourth of July "Iv July"
(IV being 4 in Roman numerals). See Hebrew Alphabet
for more information about using letters as numbers.
There was at one time a dispute as to when the counting should begin. The
Pharisees believed that G-d gave Moses an
oral Torah along with the
written Torah, and according to that oral Torah
the word "Shabbat" in Lev. 23:15 referred to the first day of Passover, which
is a "Shabbat" in the sense that no work is permitted on the day (Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur are both referred to as "Shabbat" in this sense, though they
cannot both occur on a Saturday in the same year; see Lev. 23:24 and 23:32; see
also Lev. 23:39 the first and eighth days of Sukkot are called "Shabbat"). In
this view, held by most Jews today, the counting begins on the second night of
Passover, that is, the day after the non-working day of Passover. The Tzedukim
(Sadducees) rejected the idea of an oral Torah and believed that the word
"Shabbat" in Lev. 23:15 referred to the Shabbat of the week when Pesach began,
so counting would always begin on a Saturday night during Passover. The
Sadducees no longer exist; today, only a small sect call the
Karaites follow this view.
List of Dates
Lag B'Omer will occur on the following days of the secular calendar:
- Jewish Year 5773: sunset April 27, 2013 - nightfall April 28, 2013
- Jewish Year 5774: sunset May 17, 2014 - nightfall May 18, 2014
- Jewish Year 5775: sunset May 6, 2015 - nightfall May 7, 2015
- Jewish Year 5776: sunset May 25, 2016 - nightfall May 26, 2016
- Jewish Year 5777: sunset May 13, 2017 - nightfall May 14, 2017
For additional holiday dates, see Links to Jewish
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