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How To Count 50 Days To Pentecost

Pentecost is the 50th day from the Feast of Firstfruits.

Counting of the Omer (ספירת העומר‎‎ Sefirat HaOmer; sometimes abbreviated as Sefira or the Omer) is an important counting of each of the forty-nine days between Passover and Pentecost. It is often done verbally.

This commandment to count forty-nine days beginning from the day on which the Omer, a sacrifice containing an omer-measure of barley, was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem on the Feast of Passover, up until the day before an offering of wheat was brought to the Temple on the Feast of Pentecost.

Leviticus 23:9-22

The Feast of Firstfruits
9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.
11 He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord.
13 Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin.
14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

The Feast of Weeks
15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed.
16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.
17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord.
18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord.
19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering.
20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.
21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’”

There are two different ways to begin the counting of the Omer:

Rabbinic Jews
(Orthodox, Conservative, Reform)

Based on what the Written Torah (Pentateuch) Moses received from God at Mount Sinai, and also the Oral Torah, an oral explanation of the Written Torah - this includes Midrash, Talmud and other Rabbinic sources.
Begins on the second day of Passover (the 16th of Nisan)
Karaite Jews
Based on what the Written Torah (Pentateuch) only
Begins on the day after the Sabbath during the week of Passover

The main problem is this: What is the Sabbath in Leviticus 23:11?

Leviticus 23:11
He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

There are two types of Sabbath in the Bible:

  1. Weekly or normal Sabbaths
  2. Annual or high Sabbaths

John 19:31
Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

There are seven high Sabbaths in a year wherein no customary work shall be done:

1 The first day of Pesach (Passover) Lev 23:6-7
2 The seventh day of Pesach (Passover) Lev 23:8
3 Shavuot (Pentecost) Lev 23:21
4 Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets) Lev 23:24-25
5 Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); the Sabbath of Sabbaths Lev 23:28
6 The first day of Sukkot (Tabernacles) Lev 23:34-35
7 The eighth day of Sukkot (Tabernacles) Lev 23:36

The Karaite Jews begin counting the Omer on the day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Passover. There are several reasons for this.

Besides the Feast of Firstfruits, Shavuot (Pentecost) is also a feast of the Lord for which the date is not expressly given in the Torah. Instead, the Torah tells us to determine the date of Shavuot by counting 50 days from the "day after the Sabbath" until the "day after the seventh Sabbath" (Leviticus 23:15–16).

As a result, the Karaite Shavuot is always on a Sunday, although the actual Hebrew date varies. This compliments the fact that a specific date is never given for Shavuot in the Torah. That's why counting is needed!

The Rabbinic Jews or the Rabbanites take the high Sabbath on the first day of Passover as the Sabbath. Thus they start counting from Nisan 16.

As a result, the counting of Karaites and Rabbanites will only coincide when the first day of Passover is on the Sabbath - when the high Sabbath is also the normal Sabbath.

Thus, which is correct? The Rabbinic or Karaite counting?

Going back to the original purpose of the first Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea as a good reference and basis:

For the Feast of Firstfruits to possibly have at least 3 days and 3 nights from the beginning of Passover at Nisan 15, the Karaite counting should be more Biblically correct.

Thus the Feast of Firstfruits will always be the day after the weekly Sabbath in Passover. And the Feast of Pentecost will always be the day after the seventh Sabbath. Its Hebraic dates will be different each year. But it will always begin on the evening of a Saturday and end on the evening of a Sunday.

That's why we need to learn how to count correctly to Pentecost.

Written on: 10 April 2017