Counting the Omer with Rabbi Conover


Soon, we will begin an especially rich spiritual time as we delve into the counting of the Omer, the 49 days between the beginning of Passover and Shavuot. The mystics believe that each week is associated with a Divine Attribute or Sefira. The seven sefirot that infuse the seven weeks are:

CHESED: Free flowing love of God/ overflowing loving kindness, generosity, open-heartedness

GEVURAH: Power, judgment, discipline

TIFERET: Glory, truth, balance, harmony, perfect center

NETZACH: Triumph, self-confidence, dream of perfection, messianic vision

HOD: Beauty, gratitude, acceptance

YESOD: Foundation, balance restored, stable personality, groundedness

MALCHUT: Indwelling presence of God, majesty, God’s earthly realm

Embodying these attributes helps us develop our character, complementing our community’s work through Tikkun Middot. Pay special attention to the Friday e-blasts during Omer-counting time for special ways to explore these sefirot through Jewish stories, prayer and spiritual exploration, songs, poetry, art, and other inspiring Jewish texts.

As we enter a second week of Counting the Omer, we move from the Divine Attribute of Chesed-Lovingkindness to the Divine Attribute of Gevurah-Judgment/Discernment.  The key to discernment is asking the right questions. Hillel the Elder offered a series of questions that help inform a discerning path: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? When I am only for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” (Avot 1:14).

Exercise: Focus on a situation that has been troubling you (for instance, a sensitive family issue or societal problem).  To discern your role and the action you should take, apply Hillel’s questions in relation to the situation. 

How to Count the Omer

A guide.

The omer refers to the forty-nine day period between the second night of Passover (Pesach) and the holiday of Shavuot…

When to Count the Omer

The counting of the omer begins on the second night of Pesach. Jews in the Diaspora generally integrate this counting into the second seder.

The omer is counted each evening after sundown. The counting of the omer is generally appended to the end of Ma’ariv (the evening service), as well.

What to Say. . . and What Not to Say

One stands when counting the omer, and begins by reciting the following blessing:

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.

After the blessing, one recites the appropriate day of the count. For example:

Hayom yom echad la’omer

Today is the first day of the omer.

After the first six days, one also includes the number of weeks that one has counted. For example:

Hayom sh’losha asar yom, she’hem shavuah echad v’shisha yamim la’omer

Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days of the omer…

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