As the Sefirah ‘count-up’ continues, we are getting closer and closer to Chag HaShavuos, the time when we celebrate our commitment to the Torah.
The Zohar HaKadosh explains that the count of forty-nine, seven times seven, is a purification process. Just as a Zav and Zava count seven clean days toward purity, we count seven and seven, multiple times, to prepare ourselves to deserve the Torah.
In last week’s parsha, the Torah tells us, וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת – begin the count from the day after Shabbos. In practice, though, we actually begin counting from the day after the Yom Tov of Pesach! In fact, the meaning of this verse sparked a fiery controversy between the Sages and the Tzaddukim until the Sages were able to prove conclusively that the count is to begin after Pesach, regardless of the day of the week.
The question however remains. Why did the Torah refer to Pesach as ‘Shabbos’ and not its real name, Chag Ha’Matzos?
The Meshech Chachma suggests that Pesach here is called Shabbos because it has the mitzvah of Tashbisu, ridding ourselves of chometz and leavening agents. The word, Tashbisu, means to cease -- in this case, from owning Chometz -- just as Shabbos means to cease from performing any forbidden labors.
The Meshech Chachma explains that, of course, the Torah was given to the Jewish People for all eternity. It is a ‘life-time, eternal contract’, not only while we live in our own land, safe and removed from outside influences, but also today, exiled as we are and scattered throughout the nations. Just as we were able to remain distinct and keep our identity while living in Eretz Yisroel, we are expected to remain distinct and separate in our current society.
From where can we draw the inspiration and confidence that we are able to stand apart today? How do we know we are capable of avoiding outside influences? Do we have any precedent of abstinence from which to draw strength? The answer can be derived from the mitzvos of matzah and chometz. Just as we can ‘break our habit’ of eating chometz, we also have the strength within ourselves to break free from the habits and pressures of the societies around us. Thus, the mitzva of ridding ourselves of Chometz offers us a profound and timeless message.
This is the basis of our count towards Matan Torah. We have just demonstrated that we are capable, so let’s start counting up towards the rest -- "וספרתם לכם", start counting, "ממחרת השבת", after you ceased eating chometz! Because now you see that you can do it!
May we all utilize this time properly to ready ourselves towards the big day!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!