RELIGION

Omer 2012: Count The 49 Mystical Jewish Days With Prayers, Scripture And Reflections

Out of the depths of slavery in Egypt, the Jewish people rose to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. Beginning on the second night of Passover, when the Exodus from Egypt is remembered, and ending just before Shavuot, the celebration of God's gift of written wisdom, the Counting of the Omer is a 49-day period of self-reflection and spiritual renewal.

Throughout Jewish history, the Sefirat HaOmer, as it is known in Hebrew, has taken on wildly different observances and meanings. Originating in the biblical command to actually count 50 days after giving a grain offering the size of an omer (Leviticus 23:15-16), this period later became a time of mourning over the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiba, who died of a plague for not honoring their study partners.

Amid the mourning, Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of counting, is considered a celebration -- it marks the day that Rabbi Akiba's students stopped dying as well as the later passing of one of Rabbi Akiba's most prominent students, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, whose teachings are at the heart of the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah.

In more recent times, the Omer has become an opportunity for spiritual rebirth, each day corresponding to a different aspect of a person's inner life. In this context, every day of the Omer is a unique, mystical gateway to the soul's potential.

Starting today, HuffPost Religion offers the opportunity to ascend the 49 levels of renewal as part of a virtual Omer community. Each day, we will update this liveblog with spiritual intentions, prayers, scripture, poems, art and reflections from our bloggers related to that day's spiritual energy. We welcome your participation.

Editor's note: Reflections for days of the Omer that fall on Jewish holidays or the Jewish Sabbath will be published after the holiday or will otherwise be prearranged. As the first day of the Omer is also the second night of Passover (April 7), the liveblog will not be updated until the following day.

CONVERSATIONS