Today is the fourth day of the Omer.
Wait... the fourth day of the what?
The Omer is the 49-day period between the second night of Pesach and the holiday of Shavuot. This period marks the beginning of the barley harvest when, in ancient times, Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking the Holy One of Blessing for the harvest. The word omer literally means “sheaf” and refers to these early offerings.
But grain is really only part of the story. While Passover celebrates the initial liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, Shavuot marks the culmination of the process of liberation, when we became our own community with our own laws and standards. Counting up to Shavuot reminds us of this process of moving from a slave mentality to a more liberated one.
The Omer can help us today with our own liberation, even if it is not primarily a physical liberation we seek. True freedom is knowing what we want — what nourishes both our body and our soul — and having the discipline to achieve it, which means being able to control the natural desire for immediate gratification that can distract you.
Counting the Omer remains an opportunity to help us move out of enslaving patterns of thought and behavior. For the ancient Israelites, each day was a step away from the defilement of Egypt and a step toward spiritual purity. I’ve made a number of commitments for the Omer - practices which I hope will nourish my body and soul - and I invite you to do the same. What is something you can take on for the remaining days of the Omer which will set you free?
There are myriad tools to help us achieve our liberation. For folks who prefer paper tools, I suggest this Omer counter, prepared by our friend Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt, and for those who prefer digital tools, I suggest this app, by the Meaningful Life Center.
With blessings for liberation, however you might find it,