This is a
Sefirah or Omer Counter, a mnemonic device used in the home for
the seven-week ritual of counting the Omer, which is the period
in the Jewish calendar starting on the second day of Passover
and lasting until Shavuot. It therefore links the calendar commemoration
of the exodus from Egypt with the revelation at Sinai.
23.15 establishes the commandment to count the 49 days of the
seven weeks. Mishnah Menahoth (ch.10) describes and elaborates
the biblical rules regarding the offering of barley sheafs during
this period, including (10:3) a controversy the "Boethusians"
or Sadducees, with their strict adherence to the unelaborated
biblical text, and the Pharisees, with their adherence to the
Oral Torah (Birnbaum, Encyclopaedia of Jewish Concepts,
at the beginning of each day of the Omer, a general blessing is
pronounced, standing, followed by a ritualised formula, for example"Today
is the 22nd day, which is three weeks and one day of the omer"
(illustrated here by grapes). As the Omer finishes (here marked
by the fertile olive), Shavuot begins and the observant repair
to the synagogue to remain engaged all night in the study and
discussion of Torah.
The Omer is
a period of partial mourning, which is interrupted on the 33rd
day by Lag B'Omer, here suitably illustrated by sweet-smelling,
frankincense, a joyful day when it is permitted once again to
cut one's hair, go on picnics and light bonfires (see Siegel et
al., The First Jewish Catalogue, pp.145-148, for a brief
account of some of the many customs and beliefs that have collected
around the Omer over the centuries).
a research fellow of the Centre
for Jewish Studies at the Unviersity of Manchester, painted
the illustrations on this site for the use of her own family,
as gifts for friends and as part of a more ambitious and longer
project to identify and depict the specific plants mentioned in
the Hebrew Bible and their practical, symbolic and religious significance
for Jews, then and now. She may be contacted at RFrank1251@netscape.net