Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three
This mishnah describes the procedure that preceded the harvesting of the omer.
The end of this mishnah explains why they would make such a spectacle out of what is quite a simple act. The Boethusians were a group of Jews either similar to or identical with the Sadducees. As I stated in my introduction to yesterdays mishnah, the Sadducees held that the omer was harvested on the Sabbath that followed the first day of the festival, and not on the evening after the first day of the festival.
According to our mishnah, they would make an exaggerated demonstration of reaping the omer in order to let people know that the halakhah was according to the Pharisees and not the Sadducees. These acts were polemical acts against a rival group of Jews. We should note that we dont know if this was how the omer was actually harvested in Temple times. All we know is that this is how the rabbis envisioned it happening.
The mishnah itself is easily understood and therefore I have not commented below.
How would they do it [reap the omer]?
1) The agents of the court used to go out on the day before the festival and tie the unreaped grain in bunches to make it the easier to reap.
2) All the inhabitants of the towns near by assembled there, so that it might be reaped with a great demonstration.
3) As soon as it became dark he says to them:
a) Has the sun set? And they answer, Yes.
i) Has the sun set? And they answer, Yes.
b) With this sickle? And they answer, Yes.
i) With this sickle? And they answer, Yes.
c) Into this basket? And they answer, Yes.
i) Into this basket? And they answer, Yes.
4) On the Sabbath he says to them,
a) On this Sabbath? And they answer, Yes.
i) On this Sabbath? And they answer, Yes.
b) Shall I reap? And they answer, Reap.
i) Shall I reap? And they answer, Reap.
5) He repeated every matter three times, and they answer, yes, yes, yes.
6) And why all of this? Because of the Boethusians who held that the reaping of the omer was not to take place at the conclusion of the [first day of the] festival.