The Counting of the Omer is a Mitzvah (commandment) that is written in the Torah which instructs the Jews to count forty-nine days beginning from the Second Day of Passover until the festival of Shavuot. It also marks the start of the day on which the omer-measure of the new barley crop is offered up to the Temple in Jerusalem until the day before the offering of wheat is brought to the Temple on the day of Shavuot.
Why Do We Count the Omer
Counting the Omer plays a very significant role in the lives of the Ancient Israel and even today in terms of their great anticipation and thrill of “Receiving of the Torah” or the Shavuot.
In a normal sense, a child gets excited for an exciting day that her/his parents promised to go out on a vacation. This child waits patiently and becomes so excited for the “day”. It is the same way why Omer is being counted; to display such earnestness and great expectancy for the day of receiving the Torah. It also implies a spiritual preparation and refinement on the part of the recipients and teaches every Jew the everyday counts and is valuable.
Manners and Conduct in the Period of Counting the Omer
Counting the Omer is a semi-mourning period so there is no officiating of weddings allowed; therefore no one is to be married during the period. Even a simple haircut and shaving is prohibited. It is in giving memory to the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who are allegedly died in a plague during his time.
Counting of the Omer is also a time for reflection upon how every Jews will treat his fellow Jewish brother and upon the tragedies that has occurred in the Jewish history.
It is only on the 33rd day of Omer which is the Lag B’Omer that these mourning rules are lifted.
Counting the Omer Today
Since the Temple in Jerusalem is no longer standing and that the Omer offering can no longer be offered, the very point and focus of Counting the Omer today is the fact that it was directly commanded by the Torah to be practiced every year. Today it has become a great opportunity for every Jew to meditate and reflect as their spirits get renewed until the day of the coming of Shavuot.