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facts concerning Sefirat HaOmer (counting the Omer)

ספירת העומר

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

1. So how was Seder night? How was leaving Egypt? Note that Seder night is a climactic moment, yet it is not the end but rather the beginning of a process. There is a mitzvah that begins now -- to count the days, one after the next, until the festival of Shavuot. This mitzvah is known as the counting of the Omer and it goes on for 49 days.

2. But why should we count? When we are waiting for something important (a wedding, for example, or the arrival of summer vacation) we live in anticipation of the special day. On the festival of Shavuot we commemorate receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. The counting expresses our eager expectation of the precious gift that awaits us when the great day finally arrives.

3. This is not just a technical counting. In order to receive the Torah, we need to prepare. It is customary to regard this period as a seven week opportunity to work on our character traits, to improve ourselves. During these days it is also a common practice to study Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) which focuses on proper conduct between one person and another.

4. In the synagogue, the Omer is counted each night at the conclusion of the arvit (maariv) prayer. There are those who register online to receive all kinds of digital reminders in order not to miss the number of the day to be counted. But it's also possible to begin at this very moment: Today is the first day of the Omer.

Moadim L'Simcha! Have a pleasant count.


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