Hashkafic Themes of Sefiras Ha'Omer

By Rabbi Joshua Flug

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Introduction- This shiur outline will address some of the hashkafic themes of sefiras ha'omer. a. The Torah mentions sefiras ha'omer twice. In Parshas Emor, the Torah states that one should count seven weeks (Shabasos) and then bring a korban on the fiftieth day {}. In Parshas Re'eh, the Torah states that one should count seven weeks. {}. b. There a number of important differences between the two parshios that will be addressed by some of the sources that we will present. i. In Parshas Emor, there is an emphasis on the term "Shabbos." The count begins ‫ .ממחרת השבת‬The weeks are referred to as Shabasos. At the end of the last Shabbos, the fiftieth day is observed. In Parshas Re'eh, the weeks are called Shavuos. The holiday that follows these weeks is called "Chag Shavuos." ii. In Parshas Emor, the counting begins on the first day of bringing the korban ha'omer. In Parsha Re'eh, the counting begins ‫ ,מהחל חרמש בקמה‬at the beginning of the harvest. iii. In Parshas Emor, the concept of the bringing of the omer, the count and Shavuos are presented as separate and distinct from Pesach. In Parshas Re'eh, the Torah concludes the concept of Shavuos with the idea of simcha and remembering that we were slaves in Egypt, which seems to blend Pesach and Shavuos.


Sefirah as a Count Towards Matan Torah- Many Rishonim explain that sefiras ha'omer is a count towards Matan Torah: a. Rambam (1138-1204) writes that since the purpose of Yetzias Mitrayim was to receive the Torah, the sefirah represents the anticipation leading up to the special event. {} b. Sefer HaChinuch writes that the count is to symbolize the connection of the tafel to the ikar. The goal of Yetzias Mitzrayim was Matan Torah and therefore, one must count to show that the main event is Matan Torah. Counting shows anticipation for something better. {} i. The reason why the count begins on the second day of Pesach is so that we don't lose focus of the great miracles that occurred in leaving Egypt. ii. The count relates to the korban omer because the korban's message is that G-d watches over us and provides grain to us each year. 1. R. Aharon Kotler (1891-1962) explains that understanding that G-d provides for our daily needs is a prerequisite to learning Torah. If we don't have sufficient emunah/bitachon, our learning is incomplete. {}

c. Radvaz (d. 1573) writes that the count is comparable to a person anticipating a gift from a king on a certain day. He is going to count the days until he can receive the gift. {} d. The Messages of this idea: i. R. Shimshon Refael Hirsch (1808-1888) writes that the Torah is highlighting the fact that one should not mistakenly think that the goal is freedom and now that freedom is achieved and one is able to harvest grain from his fields that he has achieved his life's goal. Rather, the goal is achieved when one has accepted G-d's authority and His Torah. This is why the Torah uses the word Shabbos in the context of sefiras ha'omer. Shabbos represents the day that one achieves his greatest heights and specifically not while working. After seven times of experiencing Shabbos, one is now ready to accept the Torah. {} ii. R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (1843-1926) suggests that the word Shabbos refers to the commandment of "Tashbisu." The day after one is required to destroy his chametz (i.e. after the first day of Pesach), one should start counting. Chametz represents something that is part of life throughout the year and during Pesach, we must learn to separate it from our lives. Similarly, Kabalas HaTorah requires us to be prepared to live among the nations of the world, while still remaining distinct and not assimilated. {} III. Is the Reason Different Now that there is no Beis HaMikdash? a. Rabbeinu Yerucham (1290-1350) quotes a Midrash (we don't have this Midrash) that the purpose of Sefiras Ha'Omer is to anticipating Matan Torah. He notes that now that we don't have a Beis HaMikdash, there are those that suggest that this is the reason for Sefiras Ha'Omer. {} b. Rabbeinu Nissim (1320-1380) quotes the idea presented by Rabbeinu Yerucham and disagrees because our mitzvah nowadays is a zecher laMikdash. {} c. Perhaps the comments of Rabbeinu Yerucham can be explained based on a comment of R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (1843-1926) explaining a different ruling of Rabbeinu Yerucham. Rabbeinu Yerucham {} as well as R. Meir Abulafia (Ramah, c. 11701244) {} are of the opinion that the mitzvah to count weeks only applies on a Torah level when the Beis HaMikdash is built. The mitzvah to count days applies biblically even when there is no Beis HaMikdash. [See the shiur outline on the Mitzvah of Sefiras Ha'Omer.] R. Meir Simcha suggest that they view the mitzvah of Sefiras Ha'Omer as a product of the two different parshiyos. Parshas Emor teaches the mitzvah to count fifty days and that count is not a count relating to korbanos. Parshas Re'eh teach us the concept of "Chag HaShavuos," the holiday that relates to the weeks. This holiday is rooted in korbanos, and this is why there is an entire week for tashlumin for the korban chagigah. When there is no Beis HaMikdash, there is no "Chag HaShavuos," just the Chag Ha'Atzeres (or Chag HaBikurim) which is observed in all generations. {}

i. R. Meir Simcha seems to say that count mentioned in Parshas Re'eh doesn't relate at all to the omer, but to the korban chagigah. His idea is difficult to resolve with the language of R. Yerucham and Ramah because they say the distinction is based on the term "Shabosos" used in connection with the omer and the term "‫ "חמשים יום‬as a separate idea. ii. Based on R. Meir Simcha's idea, one can explain that the anticipation for Matan Torah relates to the holiday mentioned in Parshas Emor and not to the holiday mentioned in Parsha Re'eh. In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, the focus was on Shavuos as one of the regalim when everyone would come to Yerushalyim and celebrate by bringing korbanos. Nowadays, there is different focus to the holiday and the focus is to commemorate Matan Torah. d. R. Naftali Z.Y. Berlin (The Netziv 1816-1893) takes a similar approach. He also views the two parshios as representing two different themes. However, he sees Parshas Re'eh as the introduction of the bridge between Yetzias Mitzrayim and Matan Torah. The seven weeks are a taharah process, similar to a kallah who must wait seven days before her wedding. The focus of Parshas Emor is on the sefiros (chesed, gevurah etc.) and their combinations (chesed shebigevurah etc.) which are really based on days, not weeks. These sefiros are a reflection of the different ways G-d runs the world. {} IV. Other Reason for Sefiras Ha'Omer a. R. Chaim ibn Atar (Ohr HaChaim 1696-1743) writes that the seven weeks represent a taharah process similar to the seven clean days of a zavah. Although, the zavah only requires seven days and the Jewish People required seven weeks, this was the determination of the Almighty because of the situation. {} i. Ohr HaChaim notes that this is why they didn't start the count until the second day of Pesach. Just as the seven clean days require seven complete days, the seven weeks require seven whole weeks. The day they left Egypt was not a full day of cheirus because they left in the middle of the night. Therefore, the count did not start until the next day and that is how it is observed in all future generations. ii. R. Moshe Alshich (1508-1593) writes that because the sefirah is a taharah process, the term Shabbos is used in the context of sefiras ha'omer. Shabbos refers to the fact that there was a break from one period to the next. The eating of korban Pesach and bris milah signified a change in status quo, similar to a zavah who stops bleeding and can now move to the seven clean days. {} b. Ramban (1194-1270) suggests that just as there is a chol hamoed to separate Sukkos from Shemini Atzeres, sefiras ha'omer is the "chol hamoed" that separates Pesach and Shavuos. {} i. R. Shlomo HaKohen Rabinowitz (1801-1866) writes that during Pesach we reach spiritual heights, but it is with the assistance of G-d. During sefiras

ha'omer, we try to grow in spirituality so that we can reach those same heights on Shavuos without any assistance. {} ii. R. Yosef Lieberman (not the senator) writes that based on R. Rabinowitz's comments, one can explain why sefiras ha'omer is called a chol ha'moed. It serves as the bridge between Pesach and Shavuos. {} iii. One can also add that this explains why the Torah presents Pesach and Shavuos together in Parshas Re'eh, and Sukkos is a separate parsha (a parsha pesucha separates them as opposed to a parsha sesumah between Pesach and Shavuos). c. R. David Avudraham (14th century) writes that Pesach and Shavuos are times where we are judged on grains and fruit respectively. During the sefirah period, everyone is anxious about their produce and therefore, it is a time for teshuva. {} V. The Concept of the Sefiros a. R. Chaim Vital (1543-1620) writes that the seven weeks of the omer represent the seven sefiros of this world (‫ )חסד, גבורה, תפארת, נצח, הוד, יסוד, מלכות‬and the days of those weeks are sefiros within sefiros (‫}{ .)'חסד שבחסד, גבורה שבחסד וגו‬ b. R. Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570) writes that the sefiros are not only a reflection of the attributes that G-d uses to run the world. We should try to emulate these middos. {} c. R. Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (1889-1943) writes that although the sefiros themselves are kabbalistic, even those who don't understand kabbalah, should find meaning in these sefiros by improving on those middos. This is what one have in mind when reciting "('‫שבזכות ספירת העמר שספרתי יתקן מה שפגמתי בספירה )חסד שבחסד וגו‬ ‫ ".ואטהר ואתקדש בקדשה של מעלה‬It is not just a kabbalistic recitation to fix the sefiros in the heavens. It is a call to action as well. {} VI. Sefiras Ha'Omer as a Time for Achdus a. R. Yehuda Leib Alter (Sefas Emes 1847-1905) quotes from his grandfather (the Chiddushei HaRim) that sefiras ha'omer represent a gathering of the parts. This is a necessary requirement for Matan Torah. {} b. R. Shmuel Borenstein (1856-1926) also sees sefiras ha'omer as a time where we must focus on achdus. This is why the students of R. Akiva were punished specifically during this time. {}

‫4. ספר החינוך מצוה שו‬

‫1. ויקרא כג:טו-טז‬

‫2. דברים טז:ט-יב‬

‫3. מורה נבוכים ג:מג‬

‫5. משנת רבי אהרן מחשבה ומוסר חלק א' עמ' סו‬

‫6. מצודת דוד מצוה שפט‬

‫9. רבינו ירוחם תולדות אדם ה:ד‬

‫7. פירוש הרב שמשון רפאל הירש ויקרא כג:טו‬

‫01. ר"ן פסחים כח.‬

‫11. רבינו ירוחם תולדות אדם ה:ד‬

‫8. משך חכמה כג:טו‬

‫21. כתאב אל רסאייל עמ' קנא‬

‫51. אור החיים ויקרא כג:טו‬

‫31. אור שמח הל' תמידין ומוספין ז:כב‬

‫61. תורת משה ויקרא כג:ט‬ ‫41. העמק דבר במדבר כח:כו‬

‫91. משנת יוסף חלק ב' ס' עג‬

‫71. רמב"ן ויקרא כג:לו‬

‫81. תפארת שלמה לספירת העומר‬

‫22. תורת נתן ערי הרמ"ק ערך מדות‬

‫02. אבודרהם סדר ספירת העומר‬

‫32. חובת התלמידים עמ' נא‬

‫12. שער הכוונות ענין הפסח דרוש י'‬

‫42. שפת אמת שבועות לשנת תרנב‬

‫52. הגדת שם משמואל- ספירת העומר‬

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