Counting the Omer: From or To

How do you take a person out of slavery and bring him into the spiritually challenging and uplifting experience of the revelation of Sinai?

This counting of the days between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost) is called Sefirat Ha-omer (the counting of the omer) . The Torah declares:

“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest,from the day that ye brought the omer of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto HaShem  (Leviticus23:15-16 )

The Torah  also says;” And He (G-d) said: ‘certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be the token unto thee, that I have sent thee: when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.'(Exodus3:12). These two verses are eternally linked.

How do you take a person out of slavery and bring him into the spiritually challenging and uplifting experience of the revelation of Sinai. How could a person who as a slave would not dare to look higher than the ground he walks on, ever learn to yearn for the infinite possibilities of the Divine. A slave cannot even comprehend such a possibility. That is the reason for the 50 day journey . It was a journey of preparation. It was a time intended to remove all the psychological and spiritual barriers that kept one from hope and purpose.

Every day of the counting of the Omer brings us one step closer and one step higher in our national and personal spiritual journeys. We have experienced the Passover holiday and relived the experience of being liberated from the spiritual constraints ( Meitzarim) that have kept our souls in bondage. Each step in the journey uplifts in its own regard and yet each step bringing us closer to spiritual refinement and further away  from the physical and spiritual enslavement of Egypt.

We move away so that we can become better prepared to come forward. That is the reason that this spiritual preparation is connected to the Omer. The omer is the term for a Biblical measure of volume of grain. On the second day of Passover, an omer of barley was offered in the Temple, signaling the allowance of the consumption of chadash (grains from the new harvest).

On Pesach we have avoided the consumption of leavened bread. The avoidance of that leaven related to our constant need to avoid the puffed up attitudes of arrogance and pride. Without removing those inhibiting attributes one cannot begin the process of spiritual or physical redemption.On the day after the “day of rest” (the first day of Passover) we bring the omer sacrifice made of “barley-flour mixed with oil, a burnt offering to G-d”( Leviticus 23: 10)

In biblical days barley was considered a coarse and basic product usually used as food for the animals. That is one of the insights into why this coarse barley  becomes the offering of the people  during these days of “preparation”.This barley sacrifice would help with the work of maintaining humility and a contrite heart before their Creator. Though, after Passover, we returned into an existence of leaven and pride, the barley offering helped keep us in check.

Yet on Shavuot we brought an offering of bread made from finely refined wheat. The more refined wheat represented the higher level of human achievement. On Shavuot the two loaves of the more refined and important wheat were offered in the Temple to signal the start of the wheat harvest. It represented a return to a life of activity in the world and creation, though it also  carried the greater dangers  of pride and arrogance. The counting away from pitfalls of Egypt made way for the preparation to receive HaShem’s direction in our lives. Only after such a period of Sefirat Ha-Omer is it possible to attain a level wherein such a gift could be offered with the appropriate mind and spirit.

As our leaders go into the world to battle the diplomatic onslaughts and  traps being laid for us, may they do so with strength, Jewish pride and vision. Yet they will fail if they haven’t learned the lesson of the :”omer sacrifice”.They will collapse if they have not learned how to keep their personal pride and arrogance in check.


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