Homer And The Omer

by Adam Dickter
Homer's calendar provides Simpsons humor while serving as a reminder to count the omer

Forgot to count the Omer last night? Doh!!

More and more Web users are keeping track of the traditional counting of the 49 days between the second night of Passover and Shavuot with help from Homer Simpson.

At www.jvibe.com/homer, Homer's famously bald head and unshaven visage in scenes from the long-running Fox-TV series "The Simpsons" adorns an interactive calendar that provides visitors the day's count number and daily blessing. Printable calendars for individual weeks or the entire period are available, too.

Site creator Brian Rosman said he marked some 5,000 hits when the site made its debut in 2002. As of Tuesday, an automated counter had recorded more than 112,000 visits.

"It's been really gratifying to see how fast it's catching on," said Rosman, 47, who fell in love with "The Simpsons" while watching the show on Israeli cable with his daughter. He now lives in Boston. "It's a way of using pop culture to learn something about Judaism."

The site contains an explanation of how the ritual began. Although he is Reconstructionist and discusses the agricultural origins of the practice (ancient Jews brought an offering of barley to God on the second day of Passover and counted the days until they brought baked loaves on Shavuot), he includes links to Orthodox sources. The site is rich as well with appreciation of the Jewish characters and plots that have appeared during the show's 16-year run.

A disclaimer notes that the use of Homer's copyrighted mug is unauthorized by Fox, and the network's lawyers two years ago sent Rosman an order to cease and desist. But Rosman replied that he feels the site amounts to fair use because it's a parody, and added that it creates good will toward the show in the Jewish community.

He takes as an assent the fact that since then he has not heard from the network. Rosman also notes that the '02 letter was dated on Shavuot - the last day on the Homer calendar.

"It reminded me of the joke about the zoning board giving the man eight days to take down his sukkah," said Rosman.