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Why do we count the Omer?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

Counting the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot (starting with the second day of Passover) is essentially a Biblical command: "You shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day [of Passover], from the day you bring the Omer as a wave offering seven weeks; they shall be complete. You shall count until the day after the seventh week, [namely,] the fiftieth day".1

The Midrash tells us that after leaving Egypt, Moses informed the Israelites that they would be receiving the Torah from G-d. In response to the Jews' inquiries, Moses notified them that this event would happen on the fiftieth day after leaving Egypt. Upon hearing the good news, the Jews excitedly started counting down the days until Shavuot.2

According to most Halachic authorities, the counting of the Omer was a Biblical obligation only when the Omer sacrifice was actually offered in the Holy Temple. Today the Sages instituted that we continue this practice in memory of the Biblical command -- and in anticipation of the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, when once again we will be observing the Biblical command of counting the Omer.

Additionally, the spiritual aspect of counting the Omer is certainly relevant today.

Footnotes

  • 1. Leviticus 23:15-16
  • 2. Ra"N on Pesachim

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