There are two interconnected verses about the omer. The first says, “When you come into the land which I have given you and reap its harvest, you shall bring an omer of the first fruits of your harvest to the kohen” (Lev. 23:10).
The second verse is, “You shall count from… the day you bring the omer of the waving, seven complete weeks” (Lev. 23:15).
The first verse is easy to understand; the earliest crop to ripen was barley, and the omer was a measure of barley, equivalent to one day’s food, which was ceremoniously brought as a thanksgiving offering on the second day of Pesach. It was called “the omer of the waving” because it was waved by the kohen in the four directions of the compass.
But what was its connection with the counting of the 49 days from Pesach to Shavu’ot? And what point can there be in continually counting the days so many centuries later?
Chizz’kuni (13th cent. France) explains that as the counting linked the barley harvest on Pesach and the wheat harvest on Shavu’ot, it trained our ancestors to look ahead from one event to another, from the current year to the seventh, sabbatical, year, and then to the Jubilee (seven times seven years).
The constant lesson is that all life comes in stages, and we should never sit still but always prepare for the next stage, even for the final event of death, though we do not know when it will come.
The Sefer HaChinnuch (Mitzvah 306) reminds us that Pesach brought us freedom and Shavu’ot responsibility. The freedom that came with Pesach allowed us to be masters of our own lives and to engage in whatever occupation we chose. But with the freedom to make a living came the responsibility to know from whom our prosperity came. Before enjoying the fruits of their labour, our ancestors acknowledged God by bringing the omer.
In every generation, counting the days reminds us that our boons and blessings are from the Almighty.