"From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.” — Leviticus 23:15
Beginning on the second night of Passover, Jewish people initiate another biblical commandment that can be found in Leviticus 23:15, “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.” This directive which begins on Passover and continues until the holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, requires us to count every single day of the 49 days between the two holidays. It is a time period full of significance as we spiritually prepare to receive the Torah all over again on Shavuot,which marks the day of the original revelation at Mount Sinai.
Consider the following laws associated with the counting of these days, which is known as the Omer. The first requirement is that the blessing recited before counting the day must be recited at night. This is because in Judaism the “day” actually begins at sundown, or at night. This can be traced back to the beginning of time when God created the world. In Genesis 1:5, God specifies: “And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.” Night, followed by day, is considered a “day.” If a person forgets to recite the blessing at night, he or she may still count the next day, but without a blessing.
Additionally, if one forgets to count the Omer during the night and during the day, forgetting the entire day, no matter if it’s on day 2 or day 45, he or she must continue counting for the duration of the 49 days without a blessing. That one lost day affects the rest of the counting.
It’s also notable to consider the manner of the counting. From days one through six, we simply state the number of the day, “Today is day number four, today is day number five,” and so on. On complete weeks, we state the number of days and weeks, “Today is 28 days which is four weeks.” For all other days, we state the number of days, the number of weeks, and the number of days we have passed in the current week, “Today is 33 days which is four weeks and five days.”
Why are the laws so specific and demanding for this time period?
These days are designated for self-growth, and the Torah wanted to emphasize the point of how critical each day is, of how much potential lies in every day – from the moment it begins. To lose one day, to waste even half a day, is a huge loss. I once read a quote that said, “People live like they will never die and die as if they never lived.” The message of the counting is to make every day count. Each day is a priceless opportunity – how will you spend yours today?