Counting the Omer:
Ideas and Resources for Daily Practice
In the Jewish year cycle, the counting of the Omer begins on the second night of Passover. During this seven-week period from Passover to Shavuot, we embark on a journey from Egypt to Sinai. From a spiritual perspective, we leave behind old habits and paradigms that don’t serve us and wander into the unknown. We move toward Sinai — toward clarity, sacred awareness, and a blueprint for a new way of being.
During the Omer we are in the desert. We face the unknown that lies ahead, and with it, our anxieties, fears, and new possibilities.
The spiritual challenge is twofold:
- To stay in the present moment: the primary ritual of the Omer is to count each day.
- To explore and refine the inner landscape of our own mind and heart. We are then more prepared to hear new insights and wisdom when they become available (at Sinai). In the Kabbalistic tradition, we spend one week on each of seven divine attributes (generosity/love, boundaries/strength, compassion, etc). We explore how we might embody these attributes.
To meet this challenge, there are lots of resources to support a daily practice of counting the omer- some of my favorites are below.
Wandering in the Desert
For many of us, the idea of wandering in the desert was never as relevant as it was in 2020. A year later, at a different stage of the journey, we are in the unknown in so many ways. We need each other, and we need practices like mindfulness, art making, and reflective writing. These practices will feed our souls, spark our creativity and imagination, and support us on this unprecedented journey.
After the Israelites crossed the Sea, Miriam and the other women took out timbrels and danced. Why did they have timbrels? They had left Egypt in haste, only bringing what was essential. Commentators suggest that Miriam was able to foresee that there would be a moment of celebration when they would want to sing and dance. This year, another interpretation is clear to me. The arts — music, dance, and creative process — are not just for moments of safety and celebration. For me, they’ve been essential as we navigate the narrow straits of our times.
Below are some great resources- websites, books, and apps- to help inspire and structure your journey through the Omer. I invite you to pick one that speaks to you, and use the readings and questions in it to spark your own reflection and daily practice.
Suggestions for daily practice:
Your practice might be 5 minutes a day or 30. It might include meditation, writing in response to the question posed by your chosen resource, dance or movement, or art. For example, I’ll be engaging in a creative art process in which I paint one small thing per day (such as mini watercolor paper or canvas like this or this) and create a 7X7 wall of my daily art.
- Your practice might be 5 minutes a day or 30- try to decide on a consistent amount of time and time of day
- Your practice might include:
- writing in response to the question posed by your chosen resource
- dance or movement
- painting or drawing paint one small thing per day (such as mini watercolor paper or canvas like this or this) and creating a 7 card X 7 card wall of your daily art. Here’s a beautiful example to spark your own creativity.
- Creative Jewish Art Practice for those who are familiar with the Jewish Studio Process, using the resources below as your text.
- anything else that you are drawn to as a way of engaging with each day of the Omer.
Resources for Counting the Omer
Middot Omer Calendar (website)
Inspired by the Kabbalistic sefirot and a middot (character traits) practice, Rabbi Margaret Holub shares one invitation/ instruction for each day of the Omer on the Ritualwell website.
Journey: An Omer Workbook (free download)
Rabbi Jill Zimmerman shares contemporary and traditional poetry and prose for each week and one question per day, structured around 7 steps of the journey of transformation.
A Way in (website) and Journey Through the Wilderness (book, kindle)
Rabbi Yael Levy offers traditional passages based on the Kabbalistic sefirot for each day. (kindle available on Amazon)
Omer: A Counting (book, kindle)
Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar offers contemporary, inspiring readings and biblical quotes from a variety of sources to support a personal journey of transformation (similar to Rabbi Zimmerman’s structure but with different categories for each week.)
Rabbi Min Kantrowitz offers a guide through the Omer based on the Kabbalistic sefirot.
Counting the Days: Growing your Family’s Spirit by Counting the Omer (book for families)
Lea Gavrieli offers quotes from a wide range of sources and exercises for moving through the Omer for the entire family.
A Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer: Forty-Nine Steps to Personal Refinement According to the Jewish Tradition (book, kindle)
Rabbi Simon Jacobson offers a short explanation, questions for reflection, and one exercise/ invitation for each day based on the Kabbalistic sefirot. Space for reflective writing/ notes within the book each day.
Daily Yoga for the Omer (youtube)
Yoga teacher and Jewish educator Sandra Razieli offers a short inspiration and yoga pose for each day of the Omer based on the Kabbaliastic sefirot (from Hawaii!)
The Omer Workbook (workbook)
An art and writing journal with teachings for each week.
Omer Counter App by NeoHasid (free app)
Rabbi David Seidenberg offers a quote based on the Kabbalistic sefirot for each day of the Omer.