What can the ancient biblical ritual of Counting the Omer (Sephirat Ha’Omer) teach us about how we approach daily challenges & aspirations while remaining mindful?
(טו) וּסְפַרְתֶּ֤ם לָכֶם֙ מִמָּחֳרַ֣ת הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת מִיּוֹם֙ הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־עֹ֖מֶר הַתְּנוּפָ֑ה שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת תְּמִימֹ֥ת תִּהְיֶֽינָה׃ (טז) עַ֣ד מִֽמָּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַה'
(15) And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering—the day after the sabbath—you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: (16) you must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD.
Rabbi Aryeh Carmel, Masterplan, Feldheim - p. 205 [England (1917-2006)]
The Omer on Pesach was from the barley harvest. The offering on Shavuot was of wheat. Barley is mainly food for animals. Wheat is food for human beings. The Torah hints to us that physical independence by itself still leaves man – from the Torah perspective – on the animal level. The counting of the forty-nine days signifies a sevenfold refining process and marks our progress to full human status with our acceptance of the Torah at Sinai, seven weeks after the Exodus.
ומפני כן, כי היא כל עיקרן של ישראל ובעבורה נגאלו ועלו לכל הגדולה שעלו אליה, נצטוינו למנות ממחרת יום טוב של פסח עד יום נתינת התורה, להראות בנפשנו החפץ הגדול אל היום הנכבד הנכסף ללבנו, כעבד ישאף צל, וימנה תמיד מתי יבוא העת הנכסף אליו שיצא לחירות, כי המנין מראה לאדם כי כל ישעו וכל חפצו להגיע אל הזמן ההוא.
Sefer HaChinuch*, Mitzvah #306
Since the acceptance of the Torah was the goal of our redemption and serves as the foundation of the Jewish people, and through it we achieved our greatness, we were commanded to count from the day after [the first day of] Pesach until the day that the Torah was given. This manifests our great desire for that awesome day which our hearts yearn for just as a servant yearns for shade. We count constantly – when will the day come that we yearn for, the day that we left slavery? Because counting [towards a certain date] shows a person that all his desire and longing is to reach that time.
*Sefer HaChinuch: Composed in Middle-Age Spain (c.1255 - c.1285 CE). The Sefer ha-Chinuch (Book of Education), is a work which systematically discusses the 613 commandments of the Torah. It was published anonymously in 13th century Spain.
Likutei Moharan: Composed by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in Ukraine (c.1802 - c.1808 CE). The first part (teachings 1-286) was printed in 1808 in Ostrog.
The second part was printed in 1811 in Moghilev, after his death.
A combined edition was printed in 1821.
(ז) לְמִימֵ֨י אֲבֹתֵיכֶ֜ם סַרְתֶּ֤ם מֵֽחֻקַּי֙ וְלֹ֣א שְׁמַרְתֶּ֔ם שׁ֤וּבוּ אֵלַי֙ וְאָשׁ֣וּבָה אֲלֵיכֶ֔ם אָמַ֖ר ה' צְבָא֑וֹת וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֖ם בַּמֶּ֥ה נָשֽׁוּב׃
(7) From the very days of your fathers you have turned away from My laws and have not observed them. Return to Me, and I will return to you—said the LORD of Hosts. But you ask, “How shall we turn back?”