Shabbat Parashat Emor| 5766
Counting Towards Something That Counts
Every year we read Parashat Emor, which includes a section on sefirat haomer (counting the days from Pesach to Shavuot), during the time we perform that mitzva. Whydo we count these days? Is there no other way to determine Shavuot’s date?
Sefer Hachinuch (#306) explains that it is based on the fact that the giving of the Torah, which took place on the first Shavuot, was the ultimate purpose of the world’s creation and the liberation from Egypt. We count to show how excited we are, and we count the days in ascending order rather than the days remaining so that we not be discouraged by the large number of days that initially exist. Emet L’Yaakov (Kaminetsky) (23:11) cites a midrash that tells that right after the Exodus, Bnei Yisrael turned to Hashem, complaining that they had not immediately received the Torah. When Hashem told them that it would be forthcoming in 50 days, they started counting. Thus, our counting commemorates their counting.
What all of this tells us is that it is important not only to study and obey the Torah but also to love it and look forward to receiving it. R. Kaminetsky continues that the death of R. Akiva’s students during this period is related to this idea. For had they properly appreciated Torah, they would have treated their fellow students of Torah with greater respect than they did.
We have demonstrated in other forums that counting the omer is not done toward a day, but marks how long we have been counting for. Indeed the anticipation toward the giving of the Torah, which demonstrates our love for it, is an end in itself. The navi, describing the relationship between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael, says, “I will betroth you forever” (Hoshea 2:21). This is ostensibly difficult. A couple is betrothed temporarily in order to subsequently marry. Why would they be betrothed forever? The navi may be hinting that although Hashem and Bnei Yisrael are, so to speak, married, certain elements of betrothal remain forever. What is so special about the time of engagement is the strong emotional feelings which are enhanced by waiting with anticipation.
The Sefer Hachinuch (ibid.) asks why we wait until the second day of Pesach to begin the count. He answers that the first day should be set aside to commemorate only the events that happened at the liberation from Egypt. This tells us that while the main purpose of the liberation was so that the fledgling nation should accept the Torah and embark on a mission as a holy nation, the liberation itself served as an independent value. The salvation strengthened the connection between Hashem and His nation and proved through the miracles that took place that He created the world and runs its existence (ibid.). While we are required to mention liberation every day of our lives, we should spend these days strengthening our connection to and our appreciation of the Torah which He bestowed to us after those 50 days of expectation.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein,z”l.
May their memory be a blessing!