Counting The Omer

Seven Weeks = 49 Days


The second night of Passover is the beginning of Sefirat HaOmer, the Counting of the Omer. During the Omer period, we are commanded (Lev. 23:9-21) to count seven complete weeks, for a total of 49 days. After we finish counting seven weeks, we observe the holiday of Shavuot (lit. “weeks.”) 

On Passover we celebrate our liberation from slavery and on Shavuot we celebrate receiving the Torah so the Omer count takes us from redemption to revelation. A Jew counting the days until the joyful holiday of Shavuot is akin to a child counting the days until summertime. We prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew by refining our character and strengthening our faith and trust in God. Before leaving Egypt, the Jewish slaves were at a spiritual low point amidst the godless culture all around them. But forty-nine days later, they were so holy that they were compared to angels when they stood at the bottom of Mount Sinai ready to receive God’s laws. So too we can elevate and purify ourselves so that we are ready to accept the Torah once again.

When the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was still standing, special grain offerings were brought during the Omer period and on Shavuot. They were waved in different directions, similar to the waving of the lulav during Sukkot, as a reminder that God is everywhere.


The count should be done at night, standing up, as soon after evening prayers (Maariv) as possible. Before counting we say a blessing in Hebrew which translates as “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.” 

Transliteration from Hebrew: “Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sefirat ha omer.” 

If you forget to count one night, you can count the next morning without reciting the blessing, and continue counting as usual with a blessing that night. However if you forget to count at night or the next morning, you should continue counting but without saying a blessing.

Learn more about how to count the Omer


The first part of the Omer period is a solemn time because it is the anniversary of a terrible tragedy in Jewish history, the death of 24,000 students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva. They died of a plague that ended on the 33rd day of the Omer. Because of this, we observe certain mourning practices during this time, refraining from getting married, cutting our hair, listening to instrumental music, and purchasing and wearing new clothing. There are certain exceptions and customs that vary by community so it’s best to consult with your rabbi. 


The 33rd day of the Omer period is a festive day when we celebrate the end of the plague that killed so many of Rabbi Akiva’s students. Customs of the day include listening to music, singing and dancing joyfully, and attending public bonfires. Lag B’Omer is significant for another reason: it is the yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) of the great mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. For this reason many people celebrate the holiday in Meron, where Rabbi Shimon is buried. On the day he died, he told his students to observe the date as the “day of my joy.” 

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