Jewish holidays celebrate important historical moments, and also many are associated with the seasons of nature. In addition to celebrating our going out of Egypt, Passover marks the beginning of the barley harvest. On the second day of Passover, an omer, a sheaf of barley, was brought to the Temple as an offering. Shavuot, which comes 49 days later, commemorates the giving of the Torah, and also marks the beginning of the wheat harvest. At the second Seder, it is traditional to start counting off these 49 days, referred to the Days of the Omer.
This symbolic "countdown" from Pesach to Shavuot shows the connection between the two holidays. Our freedom from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah, which gives our lives purpose and meaning.
We count the omer with a blessing.
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha'Olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tizivanu al sefirat ha'omer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our G-d, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.
Hayom yom echad la'omer
Today is the first day of the omer.
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