Counting the Omer in Difficult Times
“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”
The Omer was an offering brought from the first crop of barley, on the second day of Pesach. The Halachic function was to permit the consumption of the ‘new grain’ any grain that grew with the previous year after the bringing of the Omer of the previous year.
Along with the bringing of the Omer, came the Mitzva of Sefiras Ha’Omer, counting from this Omer offering all the way to the Yom Tov of Shavuos, the Yom Tov of the giving of the Torah.
What is the connection between this Omer offering and the giving of the Torah?
The Be'er Yosef explains beautifully; the word ‘Omer’ is actually a measurement of flour-approx. 43 egg volumes of flour. This volume, was precisely the amount of Manna that was allotted to each person daily during their forty years in the desert. During those forty years, all of our needs were provided for; we were nourished by the miraculous manna, protected by the miraculous clouds, and provided with water from the miraculous well of Miriam. This was the indeed the perfect environment to accept the Torah- free from any material concerns, with the ability to devote all of our energies to the study of Torah and service of Hashem.
Naturally, as we entered Eretz Yisroel, and life returned to ‘normal’ we needed to provide for ourselves, and we don’t always have the time to learn or devote ourselves to mitzvos as much as we would like. The ‘count-up’ to Shavuos, from the Omer, serves to remind us again that although we must put in the effort, we should have the peace of mind of knowing that Hashem is always there for us, and we can still make Torah and Mitzvos the primary focus of our lives. We too, can put our trust in Hashem, and devote ourselves to Him, as a child would trust in his parents.
During these trying times, when our routines are suspended, and we are stuck at home, the extra time afforded to us can indeed be again used to devote more time to our davening, and learning. So many people have commented that they have gained a new appreciation of their davening, being able to concentrate differently, and had time to make learning projects that they would otherwise have never undertaken. These challenges have bonded us to Hashem and each other, and our Torah and Yiddishkeit gives us a semblance of stability.
The Gemara in Shabbos 49a compares the Jewish People to a dove; just as a dove is protected by its wings, so too the Jewish People are protected by their Torah and Mitzvos. Tosafos brings a beautiful medrash; other birds, when they tire, they stop and rest; but a dove, has the ability to rest as it glides and coasts in the air. The Jewish People never stop; our Torah and Mitzvos can always continue, even when we are constrained and compromised during difficult times.
May we all be comforted and healed, and merit the true redemption!