Counting the Omer and counting our blessings are both exercises in the discipline of mindfulness. As we count each day of the Omer, it reminds us all that our days are numbered and we have a responsibility to make every one count. When we are intentionally counting our blessings, we are grateful for every single thing that we have, no matter how big or small.
The Omer originally referred to an ancient Hebrew measure of grain. According to the Torah, we cannot use any of our new crop until an Omer was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering.
The next part of the law was a little unusual. We were told to count.
“And from the day on which you bring the offering . . . you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete.”
Pesach and Shavuot are forever linked by our counting of the days between them. By virtue of counting the Omer, these days themselves take on new significance. Just as Pesach is a celebration of our release from slavery and Shavuot celebrates our receiving the Torah, counting the Omer enables a celebration of blessings.
It is an interesting mitzvah because it seems so simple. All we have to do is count 49 days beginning the from the second day of Pesach and ending at Shavuot.
Again, all we have to do is count the days.
The reason I personally find counting the Omer interesting is because counting all 49 days is something that a lot of people just don’t manage to achieve. It is all too easy to forget one evening, not remember in time the next day, and all of a sudden you are no longer counting. Just as we need to make a conscious effort to remember to count the Omer, so too, do we need a system in place to remember to count our blessings.
In the way our ancestors linked Pesach and Shavuot as occasions for thanking God for the fruits of the field. We, too, thank God for the renewal of life. Counting the Omer reminds us that things that are worthwhile and meaningful in life don’t happen at lightening speed and require focus.
Everyday life pulls us inexorably towards the mental, physical and spiritual mundane of deadlines, expectations and material distractions. It re-directs our priorities from family, life, God, and Torah. We are so exhausted at the end of the day that it becomes difficult for us to remember how to count.
When we are counting our blessings we are automatically thinking about the things in our lives that we love and are grateful for. Despite the negative, if we are focusing on our good fortune we will always find something to be appreciative of. With practice, we are given a gift – the realisation that we are really lucky to already have so much.
Regardless of all that we have, unless we find independent contentment inside ourselves, we might discover more and more that outer blessings will never be enough. Without steady gratitude and contentment, we may receive one outer blessing, then as soon as the excitement of that wears off, we’ll need to create yet another blast of relative happiness, again and again.
We talk a lot about renewal, everyday we say Modeh Ani and thank God for giving us a fresh start, a clean slate. Just after we commemorate our deliverance from slavery at Pesach, the Omer gives us a chance to remember every day the blessings that we have. The mindfulness of counting, slows down our distractions.
Gratitude releases an ever-fresh stream of unending contentment and spiritual happiness. Our lives are amazing, we can be content and happy. That’s when we start attracting all the things that we love and want in our lives.
So, remember to count the Omer, or at least count your blessings. Our counting reminds us that no two days are the same.
It’s up to you, make each day count.