From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Om and Omer: Does counting on countdowns count?

Barley (USDA Photo)
Having just survived yet another apocalyptic countdown, we can now utilize this “reprieve” to ask ourselves:  What sacred role, if any, does quantification play in the grand Om of things?

At least part of the answer to that question may lie in another
spiritually-linked countdown – one that has taken place every year since ancient times, and one that is currently unfolding – “Counting the Omer” (sefirat ha’omer).

“Counting the Omer” is not just a good idea – it’s a biblical injunction.  Leviticus 23:5-14 gives explicit details for “the Lord’s Passover,” and then Leviticus 23:15-16 calls for the following:  And ye shall count unto you… from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete… shall ye number fifty days…  Deuteronomy 16:9 reiterates:  Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee...  Thus, the omer is counted for 50 days – from Passover to Shavuot.

According to Judaism 101, an “omer” is a unit of measure – specifically in this case, a unit of barley that was cut and brought to the Temple as a Passover offering.  With that begins a daily “Counting of the Omer,” which (after the accompanying blessing) often sounds like this:  Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer.

The numerical count links Passover with Shavuot, thus reminding adherents that “the redemption of slavery” (a Passover reference to the Exodus) was not complete until the Torah had been received (a Shavuot reference to the receiving of the Torah by the Israelites).  “Counting the Omer is also a time of “partial mourning” (with reference to a plague during Rabbi Akiva’s time), and is therefore accompanied by certain sacrifices.  During this time, there are to be no “weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing…”

Although counting represents quantity, it can also remind us of quality.  That is why we count such things as human birthdays and anniversaries.  That is also why “Counting the Omer” can be a mantra-like way of  keeping focused upon life’s ultimate blessings.          


Copyright May 26, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment