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Omer - the first day

''And the Eternal said to Moses:

'Say to the people of Israel: When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest; And he shall wave the sheaf before the Eternal, that you may find acceptance; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.... And you shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave-offering, seven full weeks shall they be, counting fifty days to the morrow after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a cereal offering of new grain to the Lord...'.''

(Leviticus Chap. 23 verses 9-11, 15-16.)

The period between Pesach and Shavuot is called the period of the Omer, and we count the beginning of each day each evening, reciting a blessing and stating the number of days so far, counting up (not down) to Shavuot in a ceremony called “Sefirat HaOmer”

The word “Omer” means a measure or a sheaf of grain, and it refers to the sacrifice of an omer of barley which was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem each day from Pesach up until the offering of wheat which was brought on Shavuot.

Why do we continue to count from Pesach to Shavuot, marking each of the 49 days? We have calendars, we know when Shavuot will be, yet still the ritual persists.

The Talmud calls the festival of Shavuot “Atzeret” – the completion. It builds on the counting of 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot as a process or journey, from Egypt to Sinai, from liberation to covenant, from a physical act to a spiritual one. And of course the journey does not end at Sinai but it continues onward, it continues still

We will be sharing a reflection for each day of the Omer period, written by Rabbis of Progressive Judaism across Europe, to help us on this journey.


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