Starting from the second night of Passover (the 16th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan), we count 49 days, culminating with the 50th day, the holiday of Shavuot (see here for more on this mitzvah).

One is supposed to stand while making the blessing and then counting the Omer, based on the verse that tells us to begin the count when the “sickle is first put to the standing [crop].”1 The sages explain that bekamah, which means “standing [crop],” can also be read bekomah, “an upright posture.”2

Nevertheless, if one counted while sitting (or it is difficult to stand), he or she still fulfilled the obligation, since this interpretation is merely an asmachta, a scriptural hint for rabbinic enactment.3

Although this teaching is not actually found in the Talmud, it is quoted by later sages as having originated in the Mishnaic era.4

Standing for Other Mitzvahs

According to many, this teaching is the source for the practice of standing when performing other mitzvahs as well.5

Thus, for example, the Midrash tells us the blessing for tzitzit is said while standing up, enwrapped in the tallit.6 This is extrapolated from the Omer count,7 since the word lachem (“for you”) is used in Scripture regarding both mitzvahs.8

While Scripture hints at the fact that we stand while counting the Omer, it does not tell us why we are to do so. However, the commentaries suggest several reasons for this practice.

Saying Testimony

When we count the Omer, it is as if we are testifying what day of the Omer it is. Since the halachah is that when witnesses testify they need to do so standing up, we count the Omer standing.9

Like the Omer Offering

In Temple times, the actual Omer offering was brought while standing. When we count, it is as if we are bringing this special sacrifice, and it is thus appropriate that we stand as well.10

Like the Amidah Prayer

The Zohar tells us that the counting of the Omer is spiritually similar to the Amidah, the silent prayer said (at least) three times each day while standing upright. It is therefore appropriate that we stand while counting the Omer.11

Don’t Delay a Mitzvah

According to some commentators, the reason is practical. As a rule, we try to do mitzvahs at the first possible opportunity.12 The Omer is generally counted in the synagogue immediately after the evening Amidah has been said. Since we do not want to waste even a moment before performing this mitzvah, we do it while still standing up.13

Strength to Stand

When G‑d took us out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, G‑d did so through great divine revelations and miracles. Since this was such a great influx of light from above, we were overwhelmed by the holiness, and these newfound spiritual attainments could not endure (“stand” in Hebrew). Through refining ourselves each day of the 49-day Omer period, the changes that took place during Exodus were internalized and could be maintained in the long term.

When we stand up and count the Omer, we demonstrate that through steady hard work, we can take fleeting flashes of inspiration and have them stand in place forever.14