Counting UP the days of the Omer… (updated for 2022 with options for email or SMS reminders)
The smartphone is the perfect tool to help you get things done or keep track of things. Using it to remember to count the Omer is a great use for a phone or tablet. If you prefer to get reminders via email or SMS (text messages), you can do that too!
This is a time of year called Sefira. It spans from Pesach to Shavuot and it is our “job” to ready ourselves as we go from reliving our redemption from slavery in Egypt at the Passover seder to becoming a Jewish nation and receiving the Torah on Shavuot.
Many of us follow the tradition of counting the days leading up to Shavuot (called counting the Omer).
But it is not easy to remember to count every night. If we forget to count at night but remember it the next day before sundown, we can count but without saying the blessing for that day, and that night, we can count the next day with the blessing. But if we forget to count altogether, and totally miss a day, then we cannot resume counting with the blessing for the rest of the duration (until we try again next year).
Scroll down if you are interested in getting email reminders or SMS instead of using an app)
So it is pretty cool to be able to have an app on our smartphone, or tablet or iPad remind us to count.
I tried several apps both on my Samsung Galaxy 4 and my iPhone 4S to see which ones I liked best. I limited my selection to apps that are free, although there were many more offerings of paid apps. (updated for 2020 and 2021 – tried the apps on my Samsung A50 and Moto G7 and 2022 on iPhone 11)
I had several criteria that I considered in choosing my preferences.
This is the transliteration and translation of the blessing. I say it in Hebrew but it is just as valid to say it in English.
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer.
I like an app that offers the original Hebrew, but also an English translation. I disqualified apps where the settings were only in Hebrew. Because although I can count in Hebrew, setting up the options to my liking only in Hebrew, was more than I felt most of my readers might want to do.
This is the one I chose for this year for my android phone. It is called Sefira Reminders. There is a paid version, but I am trying the free version. Unfortunately, I could not find this in the app store for iOS. Keep reading for my choice for the iPhone or iPad.
Speaking of settings, being able to set a ringtone of my choosing got extra points, as did setting a reminder time for both the evening and the next day (insurance). It was also nice that it could be smart enough not to remind me if I already counted.
The significance of choosing the volume setting in the image above is that the Alarm setting will be audible even if your phone is on silent. So that is great if you forgot to turn up the volume on your phone, but possibly embarrassing if you silenced your phone for a meeting or other gathering and suddenly the reminder goes off. Of course, you can change this at will.
It seems like they thought of everything. Do I want to be nagged until I respond? (in my case, no, I don’t) And knowing that I am in Israel. And to notify me before Shabbat, since I don’t want the intrusion on Shabbat.
There is another app that I chose because aside from keeping count, learning something about Sefira seems like a great idea and this app teaches about Sefira itself. My Omer, Forty-nine steps to personal refinement according to the Jewish Tradition. (This app is available for both Android and iPhones)
It has exercises and a journal to keep track of your progress. Of course it still has the essentials that you require to count. In fact, it even has a transliteration of the blessing if you don’t read Hebrew. It also has nightly and daily reminders and can be set to Israel. I didn’t see a setting to tell it what time before Shabbat. This one seems like a winner and the good news is that it is available for iPhones and iPads in the app store and it is also free. I also love that it is multi-lingual including French, Russian and Spanish. My favorite app is Android only (the first one described above, but there are 2 other apps I like for the iPhone. The settings are not as sophisticated but it will do the job to remind you. However, each of them charge a nominal fee for the reminder feature.