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The Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:1) rules as follows:

כיצד ביום הראשון אומר היום יום אחד (בעומר) עד שמגיע לשבעה ימים ואז יאמר היום שבעה ימים שהם שבוע אחד (בעומר) וביום שמיני אומר היום שמונה ימים שהם שבוע א' ויום א' (בעומר) וכן עד שיגיע לארבע' עשר יאמר היום ארבעה עשר ימים שהם שני שבועו' (בעומר) ועל דרך זה מונה והולך עד מ"ט יום:

How is this? On the first day, he says, "Today is one day in the Omer," [and so on] until he reaches seven days, and then he says, "Today is seven days, which are one week in the Omer." On the eighth day, he says, "Today is eight days, which are one week and one day in the Omer." Likewise until he reaches fourteen, [when] he says, "Today is fourteen days, which are two weeks in the Omer." In this manner he counts and continues until forty-nine days.

Why do we counts using cardinal numbers, "Today is seven days," "Today is eight days," "Today is fourteen days"? Why not count with ordinal numbers, "Today is the seventh day, which concludes one week of the Omer," "Today is the eighth day, which concludes one week and one day of the Omer"?

  • wouldn't this relate to the discussion over whether each day is a mitzvah on its own (which plays into what you do if you forget a day)? – rosends Apr 29 at 10:34
  • @rosends Intriguing thought. So you’re suggesting that this question only applies if you hold that each day is indeed a separate Mitzvah, but not if you hold that all 49 are part of one Mitzvah? – DonielF Apr 29 at 13:59
  • @DonielF Yes -- "seven days" is part of a unit, maybe indicating that there is one grand mitzvah while the ordinal would view each day as an independent moment. I'm just making it up off the cuff but I wonder if there is a connection. – rosends Apr 29 at 18:50
  • Because if we counted with ordinals you'd ask why we don't count with cardinals. – msh210 Apr 29 at 20:40
  • @msh I thought I provided a reason why I feel it’s more logical to use ordinals. – DonielF Apr 29 at 21:33
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I saw a nice answer in a sefer named Maadanei Yom Tov.

Why is it that we celebrate Shuvuos on the 6th of Sivan, and call it Zeman Matan Toraseinu -- the time of the giving of our Torah, when the Torah was actually given on the 7th?

Also, why is the Torah ambiguous about how many days to count? Quoting Vayiqra 23:15-16:

וּסְפַרְתֶּ֤ם לָכֶם֙ מִמָּחֳרַ֣ת הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת מִיּוֹם֙ הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־עֹ֖מֶר הַתְּנוּפָ֑ה שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת תְּמִימֹ֥ת תִּהְיֶֽינָה׃ עַ֣ד מִֽמָּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַה׃

And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering — the day after the day of rest — you shall count off seven weeks; they must be complete. You must count until the day after the seventh week — fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to Hashem.

Are we counting 7 weeks = 49 days, or 50 days? And while one might be tempted to say that Shavuos "the day after the seventh week" is the 50th day, what the verse actually says is to count 50 days until the day after the seventh week -- the weeks we were just talking about when we said 49. Not including it.

The answer is that we're counting from day 0. For us, day 0 is the first day of Pesach. On the second day of Pesach we say "This is one day in/toward the omer" -- it's a day since day 0. And we would be bringing the qorban omer to mark the completion of 1 day, thus we count the time completed.

However, on the original Pesach, day 0 didn't begin at nightfall. The actual Exodus was during the day. And since omer has to count complete days and weeks, that meant their day 0 was on the second day of Pesach. They counted 49 days from that time, and thereby reached the 7th, not the 6th of Sivan.

So, we count a duration of 49 days, but because there is a 0th day, the last day of our count is a 50th day. Thus, both verses are fulfilled.

And the answer to your question boils down to -- because that's what the Torah says.

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ויקרא כג, טז: עַ֣ד מִֽמׇּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַיהֹוָֽה׃

We need to count 50 days (a quantity, a count) :one, two, three...

  • I’m not sure I see where you’re getting this from the passuk. – DonielF Apr 29 at 13:57
  • to count days as they count trees or apples. – kouty Apr 29 at 13:59
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    I think that kouty is on track, but I would add an emphasis on the previous verse that says when to start the counting, namely "..from the day of bringing the Omer offering.." Then the verse cited above says, "you shall count 50 days", it doesn't say "you shall reach the 50th day of the counting." I.e. each day when you count, you are mentioning how many days (the quantity / total) times you have counted from the time that you started. – DanF Apr 29 at 14:51

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