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Why Do We Count the Omer Specifically at Night?

Why Do We Count the Omer Specifically at Night?

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Question

I learned that starting from the second night of Passover, we count 49 days until the holiday of Shavuot, and this counting is known as Sefirat HaOmer, the Counting of the Omer. I’m wondering, why do we count the Omer specifically at night?

Reply

Let’s first understand the origin of the term “Omer.” The Omer was actually an offering brought in the Holy Temple on the second day of Passover, containing an omer measure of barley from that year’s new crop. The barley would be harvested the night before and offered up on the altar that day. It was forbidden to eat from that year’s new crops until the Omer was offered on the altar.

This only strengthens your question. If the Omer was brought during the day, why does the count begin at night?

The answer is that the Torah specifies that the counting should be “complete”: “[And] you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the Omer as a wave offering seven weeks; they shall be complete.”1

The only way to have a “complete count” is if the counting begins during the preceding night, since the day begins with the night in Jewish law.2 (In the creation story, the Torah tells us: “ . . . And it was evening and it was morning, one day.”3)

Sefirat HaOmer is actually somewhat of an anomaly. Unlike all other areas of the Torah, when it comes to Temple offerings, a “day” is considered the daytime and its following night. Since the Torah correlates Sefirat HaOmer with the Omer offering, it would have made sense to begin counting in the daytime. However, in order to have a “complete count,” we start counting during the preceding night.

And since the Torah intends for us to start counting the Omer at night, it stands to reason that we should continue to perform this mitzvah at night, so that we have a “complete count” for all 49 days of the Omer.4

On a deeper level, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the concept of Sefirat HaOmer is a 49-day process of refining the darkness of the world; thus, it is appropriate for the counting to be done at night. At the same time, the counting correlates with the Omer offering, for which the day precedes the night. This symbolizes the light and G‑dliness that pervades the world through the mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer.5

For more on the Counting of the Omer, see Sefirat HaOmer.

Footnotes
2.
Talmud, Menachot 66a.
4.
See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orech Chaim 489:3.
5.
Likutei Sichot, vol. 3, p. 976-979.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Anonymous May 14, 2016

Well said, I've always wondered this! Thanks for posting! Reply

Anonymous Basse-Terre April 15, 2015

The Omer was the manna and the manna fell during the nights... ...before it became an offering (measure) of grains in the temple. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin (author) April 14, 2015

Re: Why no "evening and morning" on seventh day? There are various reasons given for this anomaly. One explanation is that the night - darkness symbolizes the darkness and void which we much fill with light. Therefore the night precedes the daylight. On the seventh day it is Shabbat, a holy day filled with spiritual light, so there is no darkness that we need to light up, it is already lit. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin (author) April 14, 2015

Re: Day and Night With regards to the Temple offerings we find that the verse calls a "day" the day and the next night. Th verse in Leviticus 7:15 states "And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it until the morning." i.e. we are commended to eat it on that day, and at the same time it specifies not to leave anything over until the morning. Clearly describing a day consisting of the daytime and the next night. Reply

Anonymous charlotte April 12, 2015

day and night In this article you write it is "Daytime and Night" for the offering temple service. Can you elaborate on this..I have never heard/read this before.

Also, in the in the creation story the phrase, "evening and morning" is not mentioned in connection to the 7th day. Why? Reply

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