Calendar for counting the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer)

Late 18th-early 19th century

Ink on paper, boxwood, glass, metal, 39 x 16.7 x 13.7 cm

Calendar for counting the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer), late 18th-early 19th century

Calendar for counting the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer), late 18th-early 19th century

The Omer is the seven-week period beginning on the second night of Passover (Pessah) and ending on the second day of the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). At the end of the evening service, this type of calendar enables the daily counting of the days of this period of anticipation and preparation for the feast celebrating the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. They are usually small handwritten or printed booklets, and much more rarely a calendar in the form of a sometimes illuminated scroll kept in a box. Those used by Ashkenazi communities are small in size and contain a scroll unfurled horizontally. The calendars of the so-called “Portuguese” Jews from the Iberian Peninsula are larger in format, intended for use in the synagogue. The paper or parchment scroll is unfurled on two vertical axes. Another particularity here is the use of Spanish to indicate the counting of the Omer: the letters H, S and D are the initials of the words homer (omer), semanas (weeks) and días (days). Here, for example, “today is the 19th day, that is 2 weeks and 5 days”. On some calendars, the scroll is replaced by movable plaques hung vertically on three levels next to the same letters.

This calendar, surmounted by the Tablets of the Law, was initially used in a synagogue on the Aquitaine coast. It was offered to the chief rabbi of Bordeaux in the 1970s. It is comparable to a calendar in the Israel Museum, from the Tsedeq ve-Shalom synagogue at Paramaribo in Surinam and made in the Netherlands, where there was a tradition for creating this type of object. There are also several similar Sefirat HaOmer parchments in the Jewish museums in Amsterdam and London. Given the influence of Dutch Judaism over all the so-called “Portuguese” communities, it is possible that this calendar may have been made in the Netherlands in the late 18th or early 19th century.

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