These Seven Weeks
1א
(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.

2ב

(ד) ומפני כן, כי היא כל עקרן של ישראל ובעבורה נגאלו ועלו לכל הגדלה 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 לחרות, כי המנין מראה לאדם כי כל ישעו וכל חפצו להגיע אל הזמן ההוא. וזהו שאנו מונין לעמר, כלומר, כך וכך ימים עברו מן המנין ואין אנו מונין כך וכך ימים יש לנו לזמן, כי כל זה מראה לנו הרצון החזק להגיע אל הזמן, ועל כן לא נרצה להזכיר בתחילת חשבוננו רבוי הימים שיש לנו להגיע לקרבן שתי הלחם של עצרת.

Now, for this reason, because it is the main core of the Israelites' life and for its sake they were redeemed and rose to all the distinction they attained -- we were commanded to count the days from the morrow after the festival day of Passover until the Torah was given -- to show with our very souls our great yearning for that distinguished day, for which our heart longs 'as a servant eagerly longs for the shadow' and constantly counts when his longed-for time will come when he will go out to freedom. For counting shows about a person that all his hope of deliverance and all his desire to reach that time.

This is why we count omer i.e. 'so many days have passed out of the total' and we do not count 'so many days remain for us to that time' because this shows the mighty desire in us to reach that time. For this reason we do not wish to mention the beginning of our reckoning the great number of days that remain for us, to reach the offering of the two loaves of shavuot.

3ג

בעל מי שילוח – הגדת הגיוני הלכה על שלחן ערוך

באכילת ביצה יש רמז לשתי הגאולות של ישראל, לגאולת הגוף משיעבוד מצרים ולגאולת הרוח בקבלת התורה. ומה הרמז בביצה על שני אלה? כל הנולדים בעולם כיון שנולדו נגמרה ההולדה בשלימות והגיעה את התכלית, זולת הביצה. ביצה הנולדה לא הגיעה בה ההולדה של תכליתה, עדיין היא צריכה להולדה שניה, להולדת האפרוח. וכלידת האפרוח הנולד בלידה אחר לידה, כך עם ישראל. כשיצאו ישראל ממצרים היתה יציאתם לידה להם, לידה ראשונה ... א"ר אבא בר כהנא בשם רבותינו כעובר שהוא נתוץ במעי בהמה וכשם שהרועה נותן ידו ושומטה ממעיה כך עשה הקב"ה לישראל במצרים להוציאם שנאמר לבוא לקחת לו גוי מקרב גוי. וכביצה שלמראית עין גולם היא אבל בפנימיותה נמצא כח ריקום האפרוח כך ישראל בשעת יציאתם ממצרים כבר ניתן בהם הכח הראשון וההכשר להיות נולדים לידה והיא באה להם בשעת מתן תורה שבזה הגיעה לידתם אל התכלית.

Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica

The eating of the egg is a hint to the two redemptions of Yirael - the physical redemption from slavery in Egypt and the spiritual redemption when the Torah was received. How does the egg hint to both of these? All [creatures] are born complete at birth, except for the egg. When the egg is laid it is not completely born, it still needs to be hatched with a second process, until it is a chick. Just as the chick is born with a birth after the birth, so to with Am Yisrael. When Yisrael left Egypt, their exodus was a birth, the first birth. R' Abba Bar Kahanah said in the name of our rabbis: As the fetus is cut down in the bowels of the beast, and just as the shepherd gives his hand and drops from its bowels, so the Holy One, blessed be He, did to Israel in Egypt to remove them. And as an egg that appears to be a golem, but inside it is found a force to bind the chick, so Israel, at the time of their departure from Egypt, was given the first strength and the ability to be born next to it and it came to them at the time of the giving of the Torah.

4ד

Rabbi Aryeh Carmel, Masterplan, Feldheim - p. 205


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.
5ה

אור החיים ויקרא פרק כג פסוק טו

וספרתם לכם וגו'. אומרו לכם לצד שיצו ה' לספור שבע שבתות, ואמרו ז"ל כי לצד שהיו בטומאת מצרים ורצה ה' להזדווג לאומה זו דן בה כמשפט נדה שדינה לספור ז' נקיים, וצוה שיספרו ז' שבועות ואז יהיו מוכשרים להכניסתם כלה לחופה

Oh Ha'chaim Vayikra 23:16

"And count for yourself" - From G-d we are commanded to count the seven Sabbaths (weeks), and Chazal said: because they were immersed in the impurity of Egypt. And God wanted to partner with this nation, which he commanded on them, like the Niddah, to count 7 clean days. And they were commanded to count 7 weeks until then they could be kosher to enter the chuppah like the bride.

6ו

Rabbi Jacob ben Rabbi Asher, Germany and later Spain, (1270-1340)

There are those who explain that the reason for the counting of the omer is that [the days of the omer] are the days of harvesting and the people are busy [working in the fields] and are not in their homes. They could therefore not be reached by the messengers of the courts to be informed when the new month begins. God therefore commanded us to count the days.

7ז

אמרו שנים עשר אלף זוגים תלמידים היו לו לרבי עקיבא מגבת עד אנטיפרס וכולן מתו בפרק אחד מפני שלא נהגו כבוד זה לזה והיה העולם שמם עד שבא ר"ע אצל רבותינו שבדרום ושנאה להם ר"מ ור' יהודה ור' יוסי ורבי שמעון ורבי אלעזר בן שמוע והם הם העמידו תורה אותה שעה תנא כולם מתו מפסח ועד עצרת אמר רב חמא בר אבא ואיתימא ר' חייא בר אבין כולם מתו מיתה רעה מאי היא א"ר נחמן אסכרה

It was said, That Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of disciples, from Gabbat to Antifaras; and they all died at the same time because they did not treat each other with respect. The world remained desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our Masters in the South and taught the Torah to them. and it was they who revived the Torah at that time. These were Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Judah, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Eleazar ben Shammua; And it was they who revived the Torah at that time. A Tanna taught: All of them died between Passover and Pentecost. Rabbi Hama bar Abba or, it might be said, Rabbi Chiyya bar Abin said: All of them died a cruel death. What was it? — Rabbi Nahman replied: Diphtheria.

8ח

(א) נוֹהֲגִים שֶׁלֹּא לִשָּׂא אִשָּׁה בֵּין פֶּסַח לַעֲצֶרֶת עַד ל''ג לָעֹמֶר, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁבְּאוֹתוֹ זְמַן מֵתוּ תַּלְמִידֵי רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא; אֲבָל לְאָרֵס וּלְקַדֵּשׁ, שַׁפִּיר דָּמִי, וְנִשּׂוּאִין נָמֵי, מִי שֶׁקָּפַץ וְכָנַס אֵין עוֹנְשִׁין אוֹתוֹ. הַגָּה: מִיהוּ מִלַּ''ג בָּעֹמֶר וָאֵילָךְ הַכֹּל שָׁרֵי (אַבּוּדַרְהַם וּבֵית יוֹסֵף וּמִנְהָגִים).

(ב) נוֹהֲגִים שֶׁלֹּא לְהִסְתַּפֵּר עַד ל''ג לָעֹמֶר, שֶׁאוֹמְרִים שֶׁאָז פָּסְקוּ מִלָּמוּת, וְאֵין לְהִסְתַּפֵּר עַד יוֹם ל''ד בַּבֹּקֶר אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן חָל יוֹם ל''ג עֶרֶב שַׁבָּת שֶׁאָז מִסְתַּפְּרִין בּוֹ מִפְּנֵי כְּבוֹד הַשַּׁבָּת. הַגָּה: וּבִמְדִינוֹת אֵלּוּ אֵין נוֹהֲגִין כִּדְבָרָיו, אֶלָּא מִסְתַּפְּרִין בְּיוֹם ל''ג וּמַרְבִּים בּוֹ קְצָת שִׂמְחָה וְאֵין אוֹמְרִים בּוֹ תַּחֲנוּן (מַהֲרִי''ל וּמִנְהָגִים). וְאֵין לְהִסְתַּפֵּר עַד ל''ג בְּעַצְמוֹ וְלֹא מִבָּעֶרֶב (מַהֲרִי''ל). מִיהוּ אִם חָל בְּיוֹם רִאשׁוֹן, נוֹהֲגִין לְהִסְתַּפֵּר בְּיוֹם ו' לִכְבוֹד שַׁבָּת (מַהֲרִי''וּ). מִי שֶׁהוּא בַּעַל בְּרִית אוֹ מָל בְּנוֹ, מֻתָּר לְהִסְתַּפֵּר בַּסְּפִירָה לִכְבוֹד הַמִּילָה. (הַגָּהוֹת מִנְהָגִים).

(1) It is customary not to get married between Pesach and Shavuot, until Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day), because during that time, the students of Rabbi Akiva died. However, to do "erusin" and "kiddushin" (engagement and betrothal) is OK. And even for "nisuin" (marriage), if someone did so, we do not punish him. Rema: however, from Lag Ba'Omer onwards, all this is permitted (Abudraham, Beit Yosef & Minhagim).

(2) It is customary not to cut one's hair until Lag BaOmer, since it is said that that is when they stopped dying. One should not cut one's hair until the 34th day, in the morning, unless the 33rd day falls on Friday, in which case one may cut one's hair then, in honor of the Sabbath ("kavod Shabbat"). Rema: But in these countries, we do not follow the custom he advocates; rather, we cut our hair on the 33rd day, and we rejoice a bit, and we do not say Tachanun (Maharil and Minhagim). And one should only cut one's hair on the 33rd day itself, but not on its evening. However, if it falls on Sunday, our custom is to cut our hair on Friday in honor of the Sabbath (Maharil). Someone who is performing a brit milah (i.e., the sandak, mohel and the infant's father), or circumcizing his son, is allowed to cut his hair during sefirah in honor of the circumcision (Hagahot Minhagim).

9ט

Counting the Omer by Zvi Shimon

Rabbi Hirsch points out a certain peculiarity with regard to the date of the festival of Shavuot:

"The fact that the day which is elevated to a Festival should be NOT the day of the revelation on Sinai, but the final day of the counting which leads up to that, the greatest event in our history; that it should be, according to the generally accepted reckoning, the day before the Lawgiving, which did not occur on the fiftieth but on the fifty first, that fact should surely have a deep and important meaning for us.

It is not the fact of the revelation of the Torah, but our making ourselves worthy to receive it, that our festival celebrates. It is the day before the Lawgiving, the day on which the nation finally presented itself as ready and worthy for the great mission to the world, to be the receivers and bearers of the Law of God, it is that day which the fiftieth day of the counting of the Omer represents. As we have remarked elsewhere, this Festival, differently to all the others, is not called after that which characteristically has to be done on it, but Shavuot, after the counting of the weeks which PREPARATORILY lead up to it."

The sixth of Sivan, the festival of Shavuot, is not the day of the giving of the Torah but the day immediately preceding it. Why then do we celebrate the day before the giving of the Torah?

Rabbi Hirsch explains that Shavuot was the final day of preparation, the day when the people of Israel were ready to receive the Torah. This invests the period of the counting of the omer with additional significance. The forty-nine days between the exodus from Egypt and the day before the reception of the Torah are not just days of anticipation. They are days of preparation, of moral and spiritual growth. As we count the days of the omer we must evaluate our spiritual state. We must use this period to improve ourselves and correct our flaws and deficiencies. It is this period of preparation which makes us worthy of receiving the Torah.English