Using a Smart Speaker to Remind You to Count Sefiras HaOmer

Forgetting to count the Omer at night is a perennial issue, but thankfully modern technology has made it much easier to remember with automated emails, phone notifications and text messages reminding us to count the Omer that night. Remembering to count on Shabbos and Yom Tov is more challenging since these reminders are not available to us then, but going to shul ensured that we remembered to count. However, this year, with the shuls closed due to coronavirus, I almost forgot to count the first two days. 

The goods news is that there is a technology that can remind us to count even on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Many of us in recent years have installed smart speakers in our homes such as the Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home, and though we may not be halachically allowed to talk to these smart speakers on Shabbos, we can program them before Shabbos to send us audio notifications on Shabbos. While there may be some halachic issues with programming these speakers to read us the news or play music on Shabbos, a simple reminder to count the Omer is not halachically questionable, but I encourage you to ask your local Orthodox rabbi should you have any doubt. Programming this automation to occur on Shabbos and Yom Tov is a topic I wish to return to in the future. For now, let’s focus on the coming 44 days.

Here are three solutions for automating your speakers to count the Omer. I have ordered them according to the technological complexity of the setup. The more advanced configurations will provide a reminder of the day count or even the week count of the current day.

  • Easy Peasy

To get a daily reminder to count the Omer just say to your smart speaker (Alexa or Google) “Remind me everyday to ‘Count the Omer’ at 9 p.m.”. That’s it, now you will get an audio reminder at the time you choose to count the Omer. You will still have to remember the number of days to count but this simple reminder should be good enough for most people. 

  • Moderate

If you’d like to have your smart speaker remind you of the current day of the Omer so that you’re sure to get the days right you’ll need to do a bit more work.

Google Home

  1. Open the Google Home and click the ‘Routines’ button, then ‘Manage routines’ at the bottom. Next click ‘+ Add a routine’ and set up a routine to repeat itself every day. Be sure to select the speaker you would like the reminder to play on.
  2. In the ‘Assistant will’ add an action, then click the ‘Browse popular actions tab’ and scroll to the bottom and select ‘Say something’ and click the gear icon and add something like “Remember to count the Omer….Tonight we count”, and save. 
  3. Add another action and this time enter the following text into the ‘Enter command’ space “How many days has it been since April 8th?”. Save.

Your configuration should look something like this:

pic 1

Now your Google Home speaker will audioably remind you everyday to count and will even tell you the current day of the Omer (the day will only be correct if the reminder is played from nightfall until midnight). You can also click the option to have this reminder sent to your phone. This method requires you to remember to disable this routine once Sefiras HaOmer is finished. You may want to customize this routine further with a step to set the volume on the speaker before it plays to make sure you will hear the notification. 

Alexa

Configuring the date on Alexa is a bit more involved. It requires adding the Omer count to your personal calendar from HebCal and granting Alexa access to the calendar

  1. Go to this HebCal link and click the download button at the top of the page. Depending on your platform of choice, import this calendar into your Apple, Google or Outlook calendar.
  2. Open the Alexa app or go to https://alexa.amazon.com/spa/index.html#settings/eon on a computer. Open the menu and select settings and go down to the calendar settings and add your calendar. Make sure you only select the calendar that contains the Omer data.
  3. Go back out to the main menu and select ‘Routines’ and press the + button in the top right corner to add a new routine.
  4. Give the routine a name and in the ‘When this happens’ option select schedule and put in the time you would like the reminder to run. 
  5. In the ‘Add action’ section add an ‘Alexa says’ action, choose customized, and put in something like “Remember to count the Omer”.
  6. Add another action, select ‘Calendar’, and select ‘Tomorrow’s Calendar’. 
  7. Choose the device you would like the reminder to play on. Save.

Your configuration should look something like this:

pic 2

Your Echo speaker will now announce your reminder together with reading the special Omer calendar you imported announcing the current day of the Omer. You will need to remember to disable this routine when Sefiras HaOmer is finished. You may want to customize this routine further with a step to set the volume on the speaker before it plays to make sure you will hear the notification.

  1. Advanced

If you have a smart home hub you can make the notification much more customizable. Below is an example using WebCore, a program installed on either Samsung Smartthings or Hubitat Elevation. Using the posted code you can easily import the programming into your own hub.

This automation will not only remind you to count but will also give you the day and week count, saving you the headache of having to do the math. You can also use this reminder on other smart speakers such as your Sonos or Bose speakers and you can send the notification to multiple devices so that it can be announced everywhere in the house. You don’t need to remember to cancel the automation routine because it is built into the programming to only run during the days of the Omer. However, I have not (yet) automated the input of the days, so for now you will need to update the date range manually every year. 

pic 3

Automating a smart speaker can have many convenient uses both on Shabbos and during the week. Automated Abode offers customized home automation solutions to fit your needs and budget. If you have any questions about the type of customized smart speaker automations possible be sure to reach out. Email us at [email protected], or give us a call at (973) 619-9915. We’re always here for you! 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: