What is the Count of the Omer?
The Counting of the Omer is a practice that dates back to ancient times and is still observed by many Jewish and Christian communities today. It involves counting the days between two very important dates on God’s calendar – Passover (Pesach) and Pentecost (Shavuot). This period of counting is known as Sefirat HaOmer (The Countdown) and lasts for 49 days.
Where does this practice come from?
The origins of the Count of the Omer can be traced back to the agricultural practices of ancient Israel. In biblical times, the period between Passover and Pentecost was a time of great anticipation and preparation for the wheat harvest. The counting of the Omer was a way to mark each day leading up to the harvest and to express gratitude for the abundance of the land. In more recent times, in the absence of the temple and being outside of the land of Israel, the Count of the Omer also takes on a spiritual significance. It has become a time of reflection and self-improvement, as people counted each day and focused on personal growth and the coming day of Pentecost when God gave His people the Torah and poured out the Holy Spirit as a pledge of the New Covenant.
So where is it referenced in scripture?
The Count of the Omer is referenced in the Hebrew Bible in Leviticus 23:15-16, where it is commanded: “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath (Aviv 16), from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.”
This passage refers to the offering of the first sheaf of the barley harvest, which was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on Aviv 16 and then after a process, was offered to God to be accepted. Upon acceptance, the Barley harvest could take place throughout the entire land and from that day on, the people were commanded to count seven weeks (or “Sabbaths”) until the holiday of Shavuot, when they would bring the first fruits of the wheat harvest to the Temple.
Would Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah, have counted the Omer?
Ever heard of the phrase ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’ It’s a rhetorical question that emphasizes the unbreakable connection between one’s identity and their role. Similarly, we can confidently answer ‘YES!’ when asked if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. The New Testament tells us that Jesus celebrated Jewish traditions and customs, including Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Hanukkah, Purim, and The Feast of Tabernacles. As a Jewish man, Jesus upheld God’s appointments and many other Jewish traditions. In fact, to fulfill Leviticus 23:15-16, He would have counted the Omer with His fellow countrymen.
should i count the omer as a christian or as a messianic jew?
Are you wondering whether you, as a Christian (God-fearing Gentile), should count the Omer? Even though the commandment is not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament, Leviticus 23:14 states that the Omer should be counted by everyone who is part of the Jewish community, including strangers living among them. This commandment applies to all dwelling places, which means it is inclusive of both Jews and non-Jews.
In Ephesians 2:19 and Galatians 3:28, Paul directly links God-fearing Gentiles to the stranger who lives among the Jewish people. He uses citizenship as a metaphor to describe how Gentiles who accept Jesus as the Messiah are now included in the community of believers and are no longer outsiders. Paul emphasises the unity of all believers in Christ, regardless of their ethnic or social background, which aligns with the Torah’s commandment to welcome the stranger.
Paul is making a direct link here that God-fearing gentiles are grafted into the greater Commonwealth of Israel, and are welcome to co-exist and take on the yoke of Torah, to the extent that they can bear. This is a learning journey, so why not give it a go? Why not to start by counting the Omer in the great 49 day countdown between First Fruits and Pentecost.
So, as a Christian (God-fearing Gentile), counting the Omer is not only in keeping with the Torah’s commandment but also aligns with Paul’s message of inclusivity and unity in Christ.
As a Messianic Jew? Yes, it is important to note that belief in Jesus (Yeshua) as the Messiah does not excuse one from following the commands of the Torah. According to the Torah, Jews are commanded to count the Omer, a practice that is observed by counting the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. Though there may be some variation in how the Omer is counted and observed among different Jewish communities, the act of counting is seen as an important way to connect with Jewish history and tradition and reflect on themes of redemption and renewal.
How do I start counting the Omer?
Counting the Omer each day is simple. While there is no exact formula, the day and week that we are up is to be included in a prayer. To count the Omer, you might consider reciting a blessing and then count the number of days that have passed since the start of the counting period.
Here are the steps:
STEP 1. On the first night of the Omer (which begins on Aviv 16), recite the following blessing in Hebrew or your native language:
“Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sefirat ha’omer.” This translates to: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.”
STEP 2. After reciting the blessing, state the number of days and weeks that have passed since the start of the Omer. For example, on the first day you would say “Today is the first day of the Omer,” on the second day you would say “Today is the second day of the Omer,” and so on.
STEP 3. The upcoming festival of Pentecost, where traditionally, God would give great gifts. What will you believe for this Pentecost? Include that also in your time of prayer and believe for great things. Challenge and lift your faith. See what God will do through you.
STEP 4. Continue counting the Omer each night for the next 49 days until the holiday of Pentecost (Shavuot).
Note that the counting of the Omer is traditionally done at nightfall after the stars have come out. Also, if you miss a day of counting, you can still continue to count the remaining days, but without reciting the blessing.