A brush with the Omer

A brush with the Omer

Leave it to Judaism to feature a ritual that manages to last for a full seven weeks while being eminently, and irritatingly, forgettable.

Yes, we’re thinking about counting the Omer, the 49 days of ritual timekeeping (Day One, Day Two…. Day 49) that begins the second night of Passover and ends on the eve of Shavuot. The simple counting, preceded by a simple blessing, commemorates the interval between the offering in the ancient Temple on the day after Passover of an omer’s worth of barley (an omer being between two and four liters) and the offering of loaves of wheat on Shavuot by counting the days between them.

What gives the ritual its challenge, its thrill, and its annual brush with existential angst is the requirement that you not skip as much as one day if you want to recite the blessing (thank God for commanding us concerning the Omer count.) Forget one night — sure, you can count the next night, but no blessing for you!

If you’re the sort of Jew who spends every evening at synagogue services, you have decent odds of making it: The congregation recites the count every night. But if you’re not at synagogue, how do you remember?

Hence, the opportunity to sign up for email and text reminders.

But those who tried to walk the path of counting the Omer know that the very first step can be treacherous, since the first night’s recitation — “Today is Day One of the Omer” — is recited toward the end of the second Passover seder. Doze off after only three cups and you’ve missed it! You better hope you remember before the end of the next day.

So: Congratulations to Rabbi Adam Starr of the Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta, who brilliantly paired the Omer with another nightly ritual, and bought customized toothbrushes imprinted with the motto: “Brush. Floss. Count Omer.” And thank you to Green Orthodontics, also of Atlanta, which paid the bill.


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