counting the omer

The Jewish Tradition of “Counting the Days” Helped Me Through Pregnancy

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Just over two years ago, my husband David gave me a beautiful anniversary gift: a small wooden tool called an “omer counter,” made by an artist I admire. Tiny pegs in this counter could be moved to mark each of the 49 days of the omer, the 7 weeks between Passover (Pesach) and Shavuot. A delicate sheaf of grain carved into the wood recalled the ancient purpose of the count: marking the time between the barley harvest and the wheat harvest that were brought as offerings in the days of the Temple.

The omer counter’s inlaid wood border gleamed invitingly. I couldn’t wait to move the tiny pegs into the spots for each day and week. After years of half-hearted attempts, this would finally be the year that I would count each night from Pesach to Shavuot—for real, I promised myself.

Then, a few weeks before Pesach, I found out that I was pregnant. Suddenly, each day mattered in a whole new way. We had no particular cause for concern, but I knew how fragile early pregnancy could be. Each day that our growing baby remained healthy inside me, I breathed a tiny sigh of relief.

We spent Pesach with my family, as usual. After staying up late for the first seder, I ended the second seder half asleep on the couch. Still, before we went to bed, David and I moved that first peg in our new omer counter. Every evening for the next seven weeks, we took a moment to sit together, say the blessing, take turns moving the pegs, and feel grateful for one more healthy day of my pregnancy.

Shavuot fell almost exactly at the end of my first trimester—followed, a week later, by the joy of my brother’s wedding. David and I began telling friends and extended family that we were expecting a baby. We switched from counting the days to tracking the baby’s weekly growth inside me.

Our daughter was born in December. By the time Pesach came again, she was full of baby smiles, laughter, and playful exploration. David and I had not quite emerged from the fog of new parent exhaustion, but we did remember to bring the omer counter to my parents’ house. After the second seder, before we collapsed into bed, we moved the first peg. Once again, for seven weeks, we paused for a moment each evening. Each evening, after the baby was finally asleep, we said the blessing, took turns moving the pegs, and marveled at how much our lives had changed in the past year.

This year, I have my beautiful omer counter ready and packed for Pesach at my parents’ house. Soon, David and I will resume our nightly counting ritual. We will pause, say the blessing, take turns moving the pegs, and take a minute to connect. This year, the news of each day highlights the injustice, hatred, and difficulties in our world. Yet I look forward to counting even these days. I believe in our daily moment of focus and togetherness. I believe we can carry our tiny moment of connection into the world to make it better—to make our days truly count.

Perhaps by next year, our daughter will be old enough to help us count. Perhaps her busy hands will be able to move the tiny pegs, and she will know to put them in the counter and not in her mouth. Perhaps she will even begin to join in the work of improving the world.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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