Counting the Omer, which starts on the second day of Passover, is the primary religious activity of the month of Iyyar. When you start reading about the practice of Counting the Omer, it seems super esoteric and ethereal. This means for a lot of people — time to tune out — which is too bad because it can be a simple, interactive, engaging way to do some serious self-reflection and personal growth.
With that in mind we’re going to focus here not on the details of the practice, but rather on the innovative and awesome Omer Calendars people have created to help take this practice out of the ethereal and intellectual and move it to the physical and embodied realm!
Counting the Omer: Quick Primer
The practice began as a 49 period of counting the barley harvest: an omer is a measure of barley. Over the centuries it has transformed into a 49 day period of introspection, which uses the kabbalistic “sephirot” or emanations of G!d/dess as daily and weekly spiritual themes.
For those that want more on the practice first, here’s some links to great primers on Counting the Omer.
- Ritual Well: Counting the Omer
- NeoChasid: Counting the Omer
- My Jewish Learning: How to Count the Omer
- Chabad: Counting the Omer
- Wikipedia: Counting the Omer
Omer Calendar Styles
Just like everything else in Judaism there are Omer Calendars for every possible affinity and style. Omer calendars mostly fall into one of three categories (abacus, page a day, workbook) and over on Pinterest I’ve created a PinBoard of tons of different ones you can explore.
Think about each style and how they might best fit your spiritual needs for counting the omer. Matching the right kind of calendar to your style can make all the difference in adopting a new practice like this.
Style 1: Abacus
The abacus style of omer calendars really work just like an abacus. They allow you to tick of the days and see both the theme of the day, and also the past and the future. Some are very literally like an abacus, like this stunning Omer Calendar created by artist Susan Duhan Felix. This is probably one of the clearest examples of the abacus style. Others fall into a more subtle reference to an abacus like this “perpetual calendar” from the Museum of Tolerance. To assure you that not all Omer Calendars have to cost a fortune, check out this kid-friendly DIY abacus style one from Amy Meltzer.
Style 2: Page-a-Day
To understand the page-a-day style, just think of a page-a-day calendar. You only see the day you are on, and when that day is over you rip off the page to reveal the next day. I can see this being super satisfying for a lot of people. A lot of digital Omer Calendars follow this style. Take the Omer Calendar Widget from NeoChasid.org as a good example. With this widget you only ever see today. Some just tell you what day you are on, and others will include a daily meditation. This very traditional olive wood calendar, is a great example of this style that is not confined to the digital realm.
Style 3: Workbook
The third style, could be seen as an aspect of the “page-a-day,” but what differentiates it is that it’s really more of a workbook for spiritual growth. It’s intended to be engaged and interacted with, not just read or observed. The “A Spiritual Guide To Counting The Omer” by Rabbi Simon Jacobson is probably one of the best known examples. I’ve even made an attempt at creating my own version of an Omer Workbook. These workbook styles offer information, and above all ask questions for the reader to engage with.
Within these three basic styles are thematic Omer calendars to fit every possible taste and style; from RK’Jill Hammer’s Omer Calendar of Biblical Women to the Homer Calendar. There is even a whole website dedicated to Omer Calendars and creativity around them.
Questions for You!
So, what style appeals to you? What is your favorite thematic calendar? I hope you’ll share your favorites in the comments for the whole community!
Ketzirah is a Kohenet, Celebrant, and artist. She works with individuals and groups to explore, discover, and create meaningful rituals and ritual artwork to mark moments in life.