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The Sedra of Emor introduces the mitzvah of the Omer. What is an Omer ? Rashi points out that an Omer is a measurement, an amount , exactly one tenth of an Ephah. No I wouldn’t do that to you……an Ephah is about 2 quarts which is the usual amount for a meal offering. The question is why call it an Omer when throughout the Torah the meal offering is simply known by the amount it describes a tenth of an Ephah?

In Sefer Ha Chinuch ( a classic work dealing with the reasons behind the Mitzvahs ) the reason for the mitzvah of counting the Omer is given as being in order to mark the days between Pesach and Shavuos. The whole reason for the Exodus was that the Jews would come to receive the Torah and we count towards the event in the same way as someone will count the days towards any event they are looking forward to. The reason that we do not start counting from the first day of Pesach is because we do not want to minimise the enormity of the events which we recall on that day and so we can’t say this is the such and such day from the second day of Pesach; it sounds weird so we fix on the Omer which starts on the second day and look forward to Pesach using that as a vehicle.

According to that therefore, the Omer itself is not the ” Ikar” the main thing in it’s own right it is secondary ” Tofal “.
But if so why is the blessing “Al sefiras Ha Omer ” which tends to suggest that the very act of counting itself is what the Mitzvah is about and is there no other significance to it beginning the countdown from the second day of Pesach?
Oh yes, three steps forward twelve steps back.
The Medrash says that the counting of the Omer in itself is so important that due to it Abraham was given the Land of Israel, that peace can exist between husband and wife, that Haman was defeated in the Purim story and a host of other examples. Just what is the Omer.

The key is another Medrash . “Says Rebbe Brachiya, When G-d gave the Jews the Manna he gave them the amount of an Omer of Manna to each and every Jew . G-d said I will give an Omer of the ultimate food and all I ask in return is that you give me an Omer of Barley ”

The forty years that the Jews were in the desert they received a daily amount of Manna ( except on Shabbos ) . The reason was to print on their hearts that G-d is the source of their success materially as well as spiritually. When they entered the land of Israel the Manna stopped. They would require a new stimulus to remember this crucial message . When the very first crop ( Barley is Israel’s earliest grain crop ) appears, we bring some of it to the Temple as an offering to Ha-Shem a recognition that it’s only through him that we have it in the first place. The Mitzvah requires us to bring it on the second day of Passover the sixteenth of Nissan. The sixteenth of Nissan is when the Manna stopped.

King Solomon writes in Proverbs that everything in life is a test. The test of poverty is not to steal but the test of wealth is to think that you did it all yourself……the Self made man ( Interesting concept that, a self made man, no mummy no daddy, made yourself ) If we think of the Jewish names which are synonymous with riches, Rothschild, Sieff etc. etc. where are they now on the Jewish map ? the answer is obvious they are off the map. When you mix at the highest levels of society and your friends are lords and dukes and duchesses you end up married to Lords and Dukes and Duchesses.

I remember being told a story of a well known Tzedekes ( saint ) who lay on her death bed surrounded by her family. The children and grandchildren asked her for a last blessing. She looked at her family and blessed them…” You should never be rich ”

The danger is that when G-d gives us success we forget who gave it. In the countries where the Jews are treated the best and prosper most, here the USA Holland etc. the Jews assimilate the most. The counting of the Omer is that most useful of exercises; a reminder of how we were successful in the past and how we’ll be successful in the future.

Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein has thrilled audiences from Jerusalem to Manchester and Johannesburg to Los Angeles. There are two reasons for his success. One is a mastery of sources in Jewish philosophy and his understanding of contemporary events. The other is his unique delivery…If you have the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom…do not miss it!

Rabbi Professor Dovid Gottlieb

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