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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Counting 'from' the Omer

When you shall enter the Land that I give you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring an Omer from your first harvest to the Kohen. You shall count for yourselves-from the morrow of the rest day, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving-seven weeks, they shall be complete.
(Vayikra 23:10,15)

The Omer was an offering brought on the second day of Pesach from the first crop of barley. Its Halachic function was permitting the consumption of the new grain. Along with this offering came the Mitzvah of counting the days from the bringing of the Omer until the holiday of Shavuos, the time of the giving of the Torah.

The counting implies there is some connection between one and the other. What is the connection between the Omer offering and the giving of the Torah?

Strangely, the word ‘Omer’, the name of this offering, is actually only a measurement; it refers to the quantity of barley required for the offering. And, interestingly, it is this same measurement of Manna -- one Omer -- that sustained the Jews daily during their forty years in the desert. Rabbi Berachiah, quoted in the Medrash Rabba, teaches that Hashem told Moshe to tell the Jewish people: “When I sustained you with Manna, I gave each and every one of you an Omer. Now I ask that you give Me an Omer”.

We see that our "Omer" offering of barley shares a bond with the "Omer" of Manna. What do the Korban Omer and the Manna offering have in common?

The Be’er Yosef provides a beautiful explanation. During the forty years that the Jewish people wandered in the desert, they were provided, miraculously, with every need. They enjoyed fresh water from the Well of Miriam, protective Clouds of Glory, and Manna that fell every morning from Heaven. These miracles enabled the people to completely focus on spiritual matters, and not worry about their physical needs.

When the people crossed the border into the land, life would returned to ‘normal’. We now would have to concern ourselves with earning a livelihood. No more would we spend our days and nights immersed in Torah and spirituality without thought of material pursuits. Nor would we receive the daily Omer of Manna to remind us that Hashem is our only Provider.

As this sudden new reality threatened to crash upon us, the Torah prescribed the Mitzvah of the Omer: to offer Him of our very first crop of barley, before we ourselves have even benefited, to remind us that Hashem is still in charge. That, while we exert the required effort to earn our livelihoods, the end result depends on our commitment to Hashem. This outlook allows us to still devote time to the spiritual, and to prioritize properly. So the Omer becomes the ‘present day’ Manna, the reminder that we are in the hands of Hashem.

“The Torah was given to the recipients of the Manna”, says the Gemara. This means that only after we have internalized this lesson can we truly receive the Torah, and, thus, the countdown to Mount Sinai begins with the offering of the Omer!

Have a beautiful Shabbos!

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