(15) And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering—the day after the sabbath—you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: (16) you must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD.
What is the Counting of the Omer?
These verses command us to count seven weeks from the time that the omer, the new barley offering, was brought in the Temple, i.e., from the sixteenth of Nissan. We begin our count on the second night of Passover (the night of the second Seder in the Diaspora) and continue until Shavuot, which is the fiftieth day after the offering.
We actually count forty-nine days, for our Sages had a tradition that the Torah's use of the word fifty meant until the fiftieth day.
It is a mitzvah for each individual to count the days of the omer by himself, for the Torah states: And you shall count for yourselves. This mitzvah is applicable today even though the Holy Temple no longer stands and we no longer bring the omer offering. Some maintain that the obligation today is Rabbinic.
Chassidic Discourse from R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi: Usefartem Lachem
[The root of] the term u’sfartem, [translated as “and you shall count,”] also has the meaning of luminance, as in the phrase, even sapir, “a [luminous] sapphire stone.” Similarly, the ten Sefiros are given that name (sefirah)because they shine forth [Divine light]. This is the [mystic implication of the phrase]: “And you shall count for yourselves,” [i.e., you shall make yourselves luminous,] so that you draw down the ten Sefiros so that they shine for you within this lowly realm.
afterwards, [the Jews] were able to receive the Torah.
The Mystical Yet Emotional Dimension
With the mitzvah of counting the 49 days, known as Sefirat Ha'Omer, the Torah invites us on a journey into the human psyche, into the soul. There are seven basic emotions that make up the spectrum of human experience. At the root of all forms of enslavement, is a distortion of these emotions. Each of the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot is dedicated to examining and refining one of them.
The seven emotional attributes are:
- Chesed - Loving-kindness
- Gevurah — Justice and discipline
- Tiferet - Harmony, compassion
- Netzach - Endurance
- Hod - Humility
- Yesod - Bonding
- Malchut - Sovereignty, leadership
The seven weeks, which represent these emotional attributes, further divide into seven days making up the 49 days of the counting. Since a fully functional emotion is multidimensional, it includes within itself a blend of all seven attributes. Thus, the counting of the first week, which begins on the second night of Pesach, as well as consisting of the actual counting ("Today is day one of the Omer...") would consist of the following structure with suggested meditations:
Upon conclusion of the 49 days we arrive at the 50th day — Mattan Torah. After we have achieved all we can accomplish through our own initiative, traversing and refining every emotional corner of our psyche, we then receive a gift ('mattan' in Hebrew) from above. We receive that which we could not achieve with our own limited faculties. We receive the gift of true freedom — the ability to transcend our human limitations and touch the divine.
Day Three of Week 4: Tiferet of Netzach
24th Day of the Omer
Healthy endurance, directed to develop good qualities and modifying bad ones, will always be compassionate. The compassion of endurance reflects a most beautiful quality of endurance: an enduring commitment to help another grow. Endurance without compassion is misguided and selfish. Endurance needs to be not just loving to those who deserve love, but also compassionate to the less fortunate. Does my determination compromise my compassion for others? Am I able to rise above my ego and empathize with my competitors? Am I gracious in victory?
Exercise for the day: Be patient and listen to someone that usually makes you impatient.