Netzarim, Original followers of Yeshua & His 12
We mark the passage of time between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost) by the “counting of the omer.” A period of seven weeks is observed in which each day is counted off for 49 days ending on the fiftieth day known as Shavuot /Pentecost (Pentecost-means 50). It is the number of days from the barley harvest to the wheat harvest.
The counting of the days of the Omer is a biblical commandment incumbent upon every believer. Traditionally, the period of the Omer count is to be a time of spiritual introspection as the counters prepare themselves for Shavuot. Because it begins during Passover and concludes at Shavuot, the counting of the Omer remembers the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai.
The symbolism is strong. Just as the first omer of barley was brought as a first fruits of the whole harvest, so too Messiah’s resurrection was a first fruits of the resurrection of the dead. This is the imagery Paul invokes with the words, "Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." Just as the first fruits of the barley made all the rest of the harvest kosher for harvest, so too the resurrection of Messiah makes the resurrection of the dead possible.
According to Jewish tradition, the counting is done in the following prescribed manner. After the evening prayers each day, the counter recites a blessing: "Blessed are You, HaShem Our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to count the Omer." Then the counter simply states, "Today is X days of the Omer." The person counting follows his formal declaration of the omer day with a recitation of Psalm 67 and a few short petitions for spiritual cleansing and renewal. Tradition prescribes the recitation of Psalm 67 because it is composed of exactly 49 Hebrew words which correspond to the 49 days of the omer count. The Psalm is seasonally appropriate because of its harvest motif. It is spiritually appropriate because it speaks clearly of God’s salvation (Yeshua) being made known over all the earth.
During the Temple times, an elaborate ceremony developed of bringing an offering representing the earliest harvest, a sheaf of barley, as a thanksgiving tithe to G-d. The priest would meet the worshipers on the edge of the city and lead them up to the Temple mount with music, praise psalms and dance. On arriving at the Temple, the priest would take the sheaves of grain and lift some of them in the air, waving them in every direction, thus acknowledging God’s provision and sovereignty over all the earth.
Yeshua rose from the dead on the 1st day of the Omer. Paul (Shaul) wrote "But the truth is, Messiah was raised to life- the first fruits of the harvest of the dead." 1st Corinthians 15:20 This festival is called "bikkurim"- first fruits. Is just a coincidence?
The "Omer" Controversy. In modern-day Judaism, the First Day of the Omer is always 16th Nisan, the day after Passover, so that Pentecost is on 6th Sivan. However, at the time of Yeshua there was a debate going on between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees interpreted "the morrow after the Sabbath" in Lev. 23:15 to be the day after Passover, since any non-working day is considered to be a Sabbath. The Sadducees interpreted it literally to mean the day after the first weekly Sabbath after Passover. History shows that in first century Judaism the majority view regarding the counting of the omer was according the Pharisees and that this is what has survived to this day in the majority of Judaism.
Understanding this history is vital to understanding one more foundational scripture when considering this subject of how we are to count the forty-nine days, which lead to the fiftieth day, the day of Shavuot (Pentecost). Because Yeshua’s talmidim celebrated Shavuot during the same time as the majority view in Judaism we can also conclude that they started counting the omer, the forty-nine days leading to the fiftieth day of Shavuot on the day after the High Holy Day of the first day of Chag HaMatzah (Feast of Unleavened Bread). Part of being a talmid (disciple) of Yeshua our Rabbi means that we will seek to do the same. We should seek to be unified with Israel in as much as we can.
The Mishnah (Menahot 66) goes to great detail explaining the ceremony that was performed to gather the Omer. Since the Omer was brought to the Temple on the second day of Passover, its harvesting over rode the laws of Shabbat. It was reaped at night of the sixteenth of Nisan irregardless if it was a weekday or the Shabbat.
The counting of the Omer is likened to a bride and groom who are waiting for the day of their wedding. They have set the date and are now counting to the big event. For us, we are counting to the time on which the Torah was given on Mount Sinai; a day to which G-d revealed Himself in a manner never before revealed to man. It was a time to which our ancestors looked forward to and indeed so do we. Let’s work together this year as we keep the mitzvah of Counting the Omer. Let’s express the resurrected life within us by doing more mitzvot and spreading more joy.