During the part of the Omer when people traditionally do not shave or cut hair, there is also a custom not to listen to live music or hold weddings—for Ashkenazim this goes from the beginning until day 33 (Lag B'omer), while for Sefardim this goes from day 16, Rosh Chodesh Iyyar, until the end, with a break on Lag B'Omer. (I observe this custom only from Rosh Chodesh Iyyar until Lag B'Omer.)
For the Hebrew words for tonight's count, see Pauline Frankenberg's illustration to the left (click here to see the daytime or previous day's count), or go to Chabad.org for a complete liturgy (according to Chasidic nusach). [Note that most Ashkenazim say "ba'omer" while Sefardim and Chasidim say "la'omer" when counting.] Derekh agav, according to some halakhic opinions, English works fine for doing the mitzvah of counting.
After the blessing the day is counted by absolute number and by its number within each week, i.e., "Today is the thirty-third day of the omer, which is four weeks and five days" – that's Lag B'omer (lamed plus gimel = 33). Because there are seven lower Sefirot in Kabbalah associated with days of the week (and probably because of the homonym "sefirah", which also means counting), there is also a custom to say which Sefirah is connected with that day and that week, i.e. for Lag B'omer, the fifth day of the fifth week, or Hod sheb'Hod (Hod within Hod, Majesty squared). For the first night one would therefore add: Chesed sheb'Chesed ~ "Love within Love."
We travel from Chesed within Chesed on the second night of Passover, the night of true lovingkindness, to the 49th day of the omer, Malkhut within Malkhut, the radiance of Shekhinah. The significance of Hod within Hod is that it is the point in which physical manifestation (i.e. of the Torah or God's presence) begins. On a mystical level this is about the Torah being prepared to be given to the people, while on the natural level it's about the manifestation of divine blessing in the wheat crop itself.
After the count, it's a custom to recite Ana B'khoach, a fantastic mystical prayer that you can print out, download, and/or listen to on neohasid.org.
The biggest challenge of counting the omer is that it is one long mitsvah lasting 49 days. What that means is that if you go one whole night and day without counting, the halakhic practice is to no longer say the blessing. Making it all the way through seven weeks without missing a day is not easy for most of us! However, there's an opinion that you say the blessing for each day no matter whether or not you've set it up til then, and that each day is it's own mitsvah. The stricter custom is part of why calendars, websites, and widgets for counting the omer proliferate. (But neohasid's widget may have been the very first widget!)
Many blessings, in every sense,
Rabbi David Seidenberg
Thank you David for another beautiful year of counting, prayer with your knowledge and the addtions of beautiful illustrations by Pauline Frankelberg. I tried to contact her to thank her at the email listed and it was returned as not the correct address.
I hope that you and your beautiful family have a blessed crossing through this journey into the land of freedom. May we all keep strong in our connections of open hearted peace and love as we find our way home.
many blessings to you and again thank you for your honorable work is what the last part should say. your gifts are a blessings to us. take care.
Posted by: Hanna Cohen
April 3, 2010 5:34 AM
Did Pauline Frankelberg also do the image of the omer blessing? It's really beautiful. I tried to contact her about the plant images but her e-mail bounced back. In any case, thanks for posting.
I hope that your own counting is going well! I wonder if you know where I can find an omer counter online that has the kabbalistic equivalents?
Blessings to you and yours,
Posted by: Fran
April 4, 2010 1:27 AM