Modern Commentary

Torah & Spirit
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Sefirat Ha‘Omer - The Couting of the ‘Omer

We are obligated to count fifty consecutive days from the time of the waving of the sheaf until the time of Hagh HaShavu‘ot. These fifty days comprise seven Shabbatot and seven full weeks, “...you shall count from the morrow after the Shabbat...seven complete Shabbatot. Until... you shall count fifty days” (Wayyiqra’ [Leviticus] 23:15-16), and again in the Book of Devarim [Deuteronomy], “Seven weeks shall you count for yourself” (16:9).  The morrow after the Sabbath, refers to the first Sunday in Hagh HaMassot.

The phrase, “seven complete Shabbatot”, means that each Shabbat is to serve as the concluding day of the week. The meaning of ‘complete’ is thus that the week is to conclude with a Shabbat, which conforms with the ordinance, “Seven weeks shall you count for yourself” (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 16:9), each week ending with a Shabbat. This is the decisive proof in the hands of Karaites, seekers of the truth, against the dissidents, who hold different opinions.

The counting is to be done at the beginning of the day. It is written, “...on the morrow [i.e., morning] after the Shabbbat the Kohen [priest] shall wave it” (Wayyiqra’ [Leviticus] 23:11). The word ‘morrow’ is never used with reference to the night - only to the daytime (cf., “...Dawid smote them from the twilight of that day until the evening of the morrow” (Shemu’el Alef [I Samuel] 30:17). This being established, it follows that the counting should be done early in the morning of the day, immediately after the sacrifice, for two reasons: first, in order to hasten the performance of a religious obligation as much as possible when it falls due; second, in order
that the fulfillment of the one ordinance - the sacrifice - might be followed immediately by the fulfillment of the other ordinance - the counting. Since, in the exile, prayer takes the place of sacrifice, it follows that the counting should take place directly after the morning prayer.

The counting should be done aloud be each member of the community, as it says, “...you shall count” (Wayyiqra’ [Leviticus] 23:15), and again in the next verse, “you shall count” both in the plural. Possibly, this was intended by God to serve as an emphasis of the great importance of this ordinance, and also as an assurance of general knowledge of the correct count.

The manner of the counting is as follows: we are to begin counting from “the morrow [i.e., morning] after the Shabbat”, day by day, stating the number of each day in the week, until we have reached the Shabbat concluding that week. The Shabbat we are to count, mentioning it first, and the total number of the days second, out of respect for Kevod Shabbat [the honour of Shabbat], then the number of the week third. The same procedure is to be observed for the remaining Shabbatot and days of the count.