Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW, Rabbinic Director, JBFCS
The Omer: Counting the Days, Making Days Count
In the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, on the second day of Passover, a measure of grain from the first harvest was offered. Since biblical times (see Leviticus 23: 15-21) Jews ritually counted seven weeks from that day until the festival of Shavuot, marking a period called the Omer (an ancient dry measure, and the Hebrew word for "sheaf").
The Torah does not spell out the reason for the Omer counting, but its meaning certainly operates on the same two levels as the two holidays it joins --
A widely-observed Omer custom is to study Pirke Avot -- Ethics of the Fathers, focusing on one of the books six chapters on each of the six Sabbaths between Passover and Shavuot. This book of Rabbinic aphorisms is full of profound ethical teachings, with the last chapter focused on Torah, an appropriate segue to Shavuot, which celebrates the Revelation at Sinai.
As a taste of the rich resource of Pirke Avot, which we encourage you to explore, we offer some sayings from it:
These "Spirituality Notes" are excerpts from our monthly E-newsletter. Articles are © JBFCS Rita J. Kaplan Jewish Connections Programs and may be reprinted free of charge as long as this credit line is included.