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What is the Omer?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Holidays » Counting the Omer | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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1. The Omer Offering

On the second day of Passover the “Omer” offering was offered in the Holy Temple. The offering consisted of an "Omer" (Biblical dry measurement equaling about 3.64 liters) of barely from the new crops, hence the name Omer. One was not allowed to eat grains from the new crops until this offering was brought.1

2. Counting the Omer

Starting from the second day of Passover - the day of the Omer offering - we are commanded2 to count forty-nine days. The fiftieth day is the holiday of Shavuot (outside the land of Israel, Shavuot is a two-day festival--the fiftieth and fifty-first day from the start of the count). Every individual is commanded to count the days of the Omer. You can find the blessing and the associated prayers in your prayer-book or online at chabad.org.

See also Why do we count the Omer? and How do I count the Omer?

3. Mourning Period

The Omer period is also known as a time of semi-mourning because of certain tragic events that took place during this time. See Why the semi-mourning period between Passover and Shavuot? and When does the mourning period of the Omer start and end?

Footnotes

  • 1. Leviticus 23:9-14
  • 2. Leviticus 23:15

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Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Shavuot
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
Omer
Starting from the second day of Passover, we count forty-nine days. The fiftieth day is the holiday of Shavuot. This is called the “Counting of the Omer” because on the second day of Passover the barley “Omer” offering was offered in the Holy Temple, and we count forty-nine days from this offering. [Literally, "Omer" is a certain weight measure; the required amount of barley for this sacrifice.]
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.