Internet gives complete lowdown on the Counting of the Omer

It's somewhat ironic that on the second night of Pesach, with the holiday barely under way, Jews are already beginning to prepare themselves for yet another festival. Sefirat HaOmer, the Counting of the Omer, began on the second night of Passover and culminates seven weeks later with Shavuot. This period is a fascinating one, long associated with spiritual, even kabbalistic growth.

Just what is an "omer"? According to the Torah, an offering consisting of an omer (a specific measure) of barley was brought to the Temple on the second day of Passover. You'll find the story on Virtual Jerusalem — Until that offering was made, no grain from the new year's crop was to be eaten. From that day onward, it was necessary to count 49 days until Shavuot, the Feast of the Wheat Harvest (Leviticus 23:15). The passage is in Hebrew and English, with commentary at

After the destruction of the Temple, the practice of bringing barley was discontinued, but Jews continued to count the omer period. The Ohr Somayach site — — calls this period a spiritual journey of 49 Steps. The kabbalists' interpretation of the Omer was based on the various permutations (seven times seven) of the sefirot, or mystical emanations. These sefirot denote the ascent from the 49 "gates" of impurity of the Egyptian bondage to the purity of the revelation at Sinai. Each day and week is given its own mystical attribute such as chesed (lovingkindness), gevurah (restraint) and tiferet (beauty). You can read essays on the various permutations and how each of the 49 days has its own unique quality at

The Omer season has also been associated with many national tragedies so it has become the custom to refrain from holding public celebrations during this period. Eliezer Segal looks at the various tragic events that have occurred during Sefirat HaOmer as well as at related prohibitions such as wearing new clothes and getting married. You can read his essays at

How do you keep your days straight throughout the 49 days of counting? Download a program to keep track of time for you. You can refer to the daily chart at the Orthodox Union site — — or you can create a personalized calendar with the Omer count at the Havienu L'Shalom site —

Mac users can even download Doron Shalmon's MacSefira shareware program at

And in a case of old meets new, take a look at "The Homer Calendar." Keeping track of the daily count can be confusing but if H'Omer Simpson can do it, so can you. There are articles about the reasons for counting the Omer, appropriate charts and illustrations of Homer and Bart. (Bonus: There's even a slide show about the Jewish denizens of Springfield.) Check it out at

And if you still are worried about missing a day, you can register to have an e-mail reminder sent to you daily by Project Genesis —

Of course you may not be near your computer when night falls. But you can always count on your Palm Pilot. The Palm's free Omer program — — automatically displays the correct information for each day and can track the days that you have already counted. You can even set an alarm to automatically remind you daily. That way you'll never forget about the Omer even when you're out for the count.