Word "Shavuot" over background of trees and windows.

Holiday Traditions, History & Celebrations

Young women wearing white gowns and flower crowns hold baskets of greenery over their heads.

Counting the Omer

Sefirat HaOmer is the 49 day period commemorating the time between the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and their receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. As commanded in Leviticus, each year between Passover and Shavuot, many Jews count the Omer on each of the 49 days. 

The beginning of Sefirat HaOmer marks the beginning of the traditional harvest period through which ancient Jews would grow complex grains, like wheat, by the end of the cycle. The word “omer” refers to bundled grain, or a sheaf. 

Counting the Omer is also a spiritual practice in Jewish tradition by which each week is dedicated towards embodying one Sefirot, or quality of God. Although there are ten Sefirot, seven are deemed by Kabbalists to be more attainable by humans. Embracing these qualities is meant to guide Jews through a period of inner growth in preparation of Shavuot, when they are able to most deeply interpret messages from the Torah.

What are these seven Sefirot?

  1. Chesed or “Lovingkindness” refers to acting lovingly towards others.
  2. Gevurah or “Strength of character” refers to exercising appropriate judgment and making sacrifices when necessary.
  3. Tiferet or “Glory” refers to the ability to balance kindness and practical judgment. 
  4. Netzach or “Eternity” refers to identifying elements of life that hold long-lasting importance. 
  5. Hod or “Splendor” refers to the ability to lead life with the goal of peace. 
  6. Yesod or “Foundation” refers to recognition of aspects of life created by the divine.
  7. Malchut or “Sovereignty” refers to rising to spiritual and moral obligations.

Top Image: Piki Wiki Israel 5423 Shavuot holiday