Kids in a wheat field.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In biblical times, the major festivals coincided with primary crop harvests. Passover immediately preceded the barley harvest. Shavuot signaled the beginning of the wheat harvest and Rosh Hashana (New Year) immediately followed the picking of summer fruits.Of the grains planted the previous winter, barley was the first to ripen, followed by wheat. Passover, in addition to the celebration of our Exodus from Egypt, was therefore also a celebration of the barley harvest, ritualized by the sacrifice of the omer offering of barley in the Temple. It was forbidden to eat any of the newly harvested grains until the festive omer ceremony was performed on the second day of Passover, amid much rejoicing and fanfare. In addition to thanking the Almighty for his bounty, the unleavened omer offering spiritually symbolizes our gratitude to God for the miracle of the manna in the wilderness (also an omer measure).