Emor 5784: Korban Omer & Kedushas Eretz Yisrael

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Emor, the Torah (Vayikra 23) takes us on a journey through the Jewish calendar year.  Beginning with Shabbos (Vayikra 23:3) and Rosh Chodesh (23:4 with Rashi), moving through the Korban Pesach on 14 Nissan, Chag Ha’Pesach on 15 Nissan, Korban Omer on 16 Nissan, through Sefiras ha’Omer, Shavuos/Atzeres/Chag Ha’Bikkurim, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Chag Ha’Succos and Shmini Atzeres.  For the Jew, time is replete with meaning, invested with great potential, and represents eternity. Our calendar is not static or stagnant.  Our calendar is overflowing with opportunities to connect with Hashem, His Torah, and our fellow Jew, through the kedushas ha’zman of Shabbos and the Chagim.

In regard to the Korban Omer, which was the first of the barley harvest, brought up to the Kohen in the BHM”K on the 16th of Nissan, the pasukim tell us: And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: כִּיתָבֹאוּ אֶלהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם, וּקְצַרְתֶּם אֶתקְצִירָהּוַהֲבֵאתֶם אֶתעֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם, אֶלהַכֹּהֵן, when you come to the Land that I give to you, and you reap the harvest of the land, you shall bring an omer, the first of the harvest to the kohen, And the kohen shall wave the omer before Hashem, as an appeasement, on the morrow of the rest day (i.e.: the day after Chag Ha’Pesach) the Kohen shall wave it… וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶתעֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָהשֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה, And you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the Omer of waving, seven weeks; they shall be complete (Vayikra 23:9-11,15).

Here we have the Biblical mitzvah to count the Omer; a mitzvah we refer to as “Sefiras ha’Omer”.  We count from the day the Omer is brought, for forty-nine consecutive days of counting, and the fiftieth day is celebrated as Shavuos (which literally means ‘weeks’), for it is celebrated at the end of the count of seven complete weeks.

The question arises of whether this mitzvah, the counting of the Omer, is d’Oraisa today, biblically mandated, or is it d’Rabanan, mandated by the Sages.  If the mitzvah is contingent upon the bringing of the first barley harvest, the Omer, to the BHM”K, where it is waved, and offered, by the Kohen on our behalf, followed by the first wheat offerings on Shavuos, 50 days later, then today this mitzvah would be d’Rabanan.

While the Rambam, and others, hold that Sefiras ha’Omer is its own independent mitzvah today, and even with no korban omer or the shtei ha’lechem (loaves brought on Shavuos) we still must count d’Oraisa, the majority of poskim, including the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, hold that the counting is bound to these offerings, and in their absence, Sefiras ha’Omer is a rabbinic mitzvah (Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah, p.214).

Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman writes, “This explains two anomalies about Sefirat Ha’Omer: 1) the fact that we do not recite the She’hechiyanu blessing, and 2) the addition of the ha’Rachaman prayer every night after counting (Ha’Rachaman Hu yachazir lanu avodas BHM”K li’mi’komah bi’mi’heirah b’yameinu, amen selah – may the Merciful One restore for us the service of the Temple to its place, speedily and in our days, amen).

“The Rashba explains that the She’hechiyanu blessing is recited only on mitzvot that give us joy and pleasure.  Nowadays, Sefirat ha’Omer give us (or at least it should give us) grief, for it serves to remind us that the main component of the mitzvah – the Divine service in the BHM”K – is missing!  This also explains why we say ‘May the Merciful One restore for us the service of the Temple to its place, speedily and in our days.’  Since our counting is only rabbinically mandated today, we turn to Hashem each night with a heartfelt plea and prayer to grant us the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah in its entirety, in the very near future.

“Like so many other aspects of the Shalosh Regalim, the mitzvot surrounding the Korban Omer underscore the importance of Jewish agriculture in the Land of Israel.  The harvesting of the Omer is so important that it even supersedes the Sabbath.  Rav Avraham Yitzchak ha’Kohen Kook zt’l explains, ‘This is a great sign that the Jewish agriculture in Eretz Yisrael emanates from the holy source of this holy nation.’” (Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah, p.214).

There is a further connection between the Omer and Eretz Yisrael, as it relates to the culmination of the count, on Shavuos.  “The Sefer ha’Chinuch describe the count of Omer as a countdown to Matan Torah, on Shavuot.  The count is a way for us to prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew each year… The Shtei Ha’lechem, the two loaves of wheat brought on Shavuot, could only be made from grains harvested in E”Y.  Based on the Zohar, the reason for this is that the Two Loaves symbolize the Torah, and they must be from wheat harvested in E”Y, for one cannot attain a full understanding of the Torah outside the Land of Israel” (Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah, p.214-215).

As we count Sefirah each night during these weeks between Pesach and Shavuos, let us keep these lessons in mind.  Our count in the absence of the BHM”K is to remind us of what once was, and the service in Temple times.  Let us hope and pray for the ultimate geula (redemption) and the rebuilding of Tzion and Yerushalayim in all her glory, and everlasting peace.

Let us remember how precious the land is to HKB”H and how dear and beloved it must be to us.    This is the Land where our Avos and Imahos walked, where the prophets heard and received the word of G-d, and where Jewish kings ruled the Jewish nation.  This is the Land generations of Jews longed for, and loved, even from the darkest corners of exile.

I pen these words on Yom Ha’Atzmaut 5784, the day we commemorate and celebrate the birth of the State of Israel, a miracle granted to our nation 76 years ago – she’asa nissim la’avoseinu b’yamim ha’heim, ba’zman ha’zeh.  Our feelings on this day are a tremendous storm of mixed emotions.  While we give thanks to Hashem for this incredible and miraculous gift, we cry and mourn those who were lost on Oct. 7 and since, we pray for the hostages who have not yet returned, we long for peace (internally and externally) that seems to forever elude us, R”L, and we hope that the glory of Am Yisrael will be revealed to the world once again.

For on that great day, Hashem will be One and His Name will be One (cf. Zechariah 14:9).

May G-d grant us to see peace restored to the Land, to our Medinah, to our nation, and the ultimate geula, b’karov mamash.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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