What is Counting the Omer?

In recent years, “Counting the Omer” has been re-imagined as an invitation to Mindfulness practice: paying attention not only to each day as it passes but also to the individual spiritual qualities that were assigned to it by the 16th century Jewish mystics.

“The counting helps us to pay attention to the movement of our lives,” says Rabbi Yael. “Counting the Omer helps us notice the subtle shifts in our lives, the big changes, all the yearnings, strivings, disappointments, hopes and fears.”

An Omer is a measure of barley. In Biblical times, the Counting of the Omer marked the time between the barley and wheat harvests. Every night during that period, farmers would wave an Omer to plead for an abundant crop. Over time, the agricultural ritual was replaced by liturgy, and the counting became a way to mark the Israelites’ journey from bondage in Egypt to revelation at Mount Sinai.

For the Kabbalists, the Counting of the Omer became a time of spiritual exploration and cleansing, a way to prepare the soul for revelation. The mystics divided the time into seven weeks, with each week containing a specific spiritual quality. On each of the 49 days, two of the qualities intersect with each other, making each day unique.

The Omer teachings you will see here and can receive as nightly email reminders by signing up for our mailing list, are taken from Rabbi Yael Levy's Omer guide, Journey through the Wilderness, which is available as a whole in print or as an ebook.

The daily teachings will begin Saturday April 11 and continue to Shavuot, May 29. A Way In also invites you to join us for our annual retreat in the high desert of New Mexico for the last days of the Counting.

The practice as well as Rabbi Yael were featured in a 2015 New York Times article.