Parshas Emor: Lessons from, and for, Sefiras ha’Omer

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Emor, we are commanded regarding the timely mitzvah of Sefiras ha’Omer.  B’zman she’Beis HaMikdash haya kaym (in Temple times) on 16 Nissan, the day after the commencement of Chag ha’Matzos, the barley offering was offered in the Temple.  This barley offering – the omer ha’tenufah – began the forty-nine day period of counting, which culminated on the 50th day, Atzeres/Chag ha’Shavuos, with the offering of the minchah chadasha/sh’tei ha’lechem/wheat-chametz offering in the Beis Ha’Mikdash.

Hence, the time period from Pesach to Shavuos was an agricultural time in Eretz Yisrael, a time of recognition of the bounty of the land, celebrating the blessing of the first two of the shivas ha’minim (Devarim 8:8 – אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץזֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ).  The count of the forty-nine days began with the barley offering and culminated with the wheat offering (on the 50th day).

The pasukim command us:

וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶתעֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה

עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם; וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה, לַה

And you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the Sabbath (understood by the Sages to mean the day after Chag Ha’Matzos begins, corresponding to 16 Nissan), from the day you bring the Omer of waving (the barley offering), seven complete Sabbaths (weeks) it shall be; until the morrow of the seventh Sabbath, you shall count fifty days, and you shall bring a new meal-offering (of wheat) to Hashem (Vayikra 23:15-16).

When we count Omer today, it is a remembrance of this time period in Eretz Yisrael in Temple times, and a remembrance of the offerings that were offered in the Beis HaMikdash.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner teaches, “The count begins on the day that the Omer offering is made.  This offering serves as an important function: only after this offering has been made is it permissible to eat from the new crop of grain (called ‘chadash’).  The word ‘omer’ itself is a measurement, an amount – specifically, the amount of grain that constitutes this offering of barley.  No other offering derives its name from its measurement, and very few offerings are from barley.  What is this significance of the Korban Omer?

“Rav Yosef Salant – the Be’er Yosef – offers an amazing perspective on the meaning and purpose of this offering.  He suggests that the Omer should remind us of the tremendous kindness of HKB”H, Who provides us with a new crop grain every year.  It is similar to bikkurim (Devarim 26:1-11) and challah (Bamidbar 15:17-21), in that all of these commandments require us to devote the first of something – our first fruits (bikkurim), the first part of our dough that we bake (challah), the first harvested grain of the year (omer and sh’tei ha’lechem) – to Hashem, as an expression of gratitude and acknowledgement that He provides us with all that we have.

“This idea is reinforced when we consider where else the omer measurement appears in the Torah.  The manna that fed the nation in the desert appeared each morning in a particular quantity: one omer per head (see Shemos Ch.16).  An omer was enough to sustain one person for one day (and each day, a new omer fell per person, aside from Shabbos when two omer fell on yom shishi, erev Shabbos).

“The Omer offering can thus be seen as a continuation of the manna.  Just as it was clear through the miracles of the manna that Hashem sustained the Jews in the desert, so too, even when it is not obvious, we must recognize that our sustenance comes from G-d.  This is accomplished by offering the same measurement that was provided to the Israelites daily in the desert.  In fact, the nation was sustained by the manna until Yehoshua led the nation into Eretz Yisrael.  Fascinatingly, the exact date that the manna ceased was the second day of Pesach – the very day on which the Omer offering is brought and on which we begin to count the Omer!  Surely, this is no coincidence.  Rather, it indicates clearly that the omer of manna, the Omer offering of Pesach, and Sefirat Ha’Omer are all connected and serve a similar purpose: helping us recognize that all of our sustenance is from HKB”H.

“A portion of manna was kept in the Aaron Kodesh (holy Ark of the Covenant), in the Mikdash.  It served as a reminder to the nation that just as G-d provided for the dor ha’midbar (generation of the desert), so too, He continues to provide for us always.  And yet, no one could see the tzintzenes mahn, as it was hidden away in the Ark!  Hence, the annual Sefirat Ha’Omer (alluding to both the Omer offering and the daily omer of manna) was the reminder that it is not just the first grain of the season that is from Hashem – everything we have is a gift from Hashem.  That is the mind-frame and attitude we should cultivate as we prepare to receive the Torah” (Shalom Rav, v.2, p.119-120).

What a beautiful, timely and relevant lesson from the Omer offering, the omer of manna and for the time period of Sefiras ha’Omer that we are currently counting through.  Though today, we do not have a Temple, nor the annual Omer offering on 16 Nissan, the lesson of the barley offering on Pesach, the wheat offering on Shavuos, and the daily sustenance of manna that fell for the nation in the desert, all serve as powerful reminders of the bounty Hashem bestows upon us in our lives.

Once a talmid came to Rav Gifter zt’l (R’ Mordechai Gifter 1915-2001, Rosh Yeshiva Telz Yeshiva, Cleveland), worried about his future and earning enough money to support a family.  Rav Gifter sat with him for four hours, giving him a practical lesson on effort (hishtadlus) and trust (bitachon) in Hashem.  Rav Gifter told the talmid his own life story, including the difficulties he had faced in supporting his own family.  He then uttered unforgettable words, which changed the talmid’s life: ‘Without trust in Hashem, I would not even have a loaf of bread on my table.’ (Rav Gifter, Artscroll, p.205).

As we count through the remaining days of Omer, from the barley offering to the wheat offering, though the Temple no longer stands, let us internalize this lesson: it is the RS”O Who creates all, sustains all, and provides for all.  עֵינֵיכֹל, אֵלֶיךָ יְשַׂבֵּרוּ וְאַתָּה נוֹתֵןלָהֶם אֶתאָכְלָם בְּעִתּוֹthe eyes of all hope to You, and You give their food in its time (Tehillim 145:15).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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