Tuesday, April 9, 2013

SEFIRAT HAOMER: What is the 'omer?


It is a Mitzva to count the days of the 'omer,  49 days from the 16th of Nisan. What was the 'omer?  The 'omer alludes to an offering of barley that was offered in the Temple of Yerushalayim (Bet haMiqdash). The 16th of Nisan, the second day of Pesah at night, they would select stalks of barley, pick and roast the grains and grind them into flour.  That flour, prepared in a special way, would be offered in the Temple's altar the next morning.  After the Cohen offered this qorban ha'omer it was permitted for everyone to consume from the new harvest (tebu-a hadasha or  hadash). The  quantity of flour assigned for this offering was one'omer (the 'omer, a Biblical volume measurement unit, would be equivalent to approximately half dry-gallon).  Now, the Tora (Lev. 23:15-17) instructs us that from the day the 'omer was offered we should count 49 days, seven complete weeks. And then, it also instructs us  (Deut. 16:9-10) that on the day following the seven weeks we should celebrate the festival of Shabu'ot (which means 'weeks").  Therefore it is a Mitzva for every individual to count 49 days and seven weeks from the second day of Pesah until Shabu'ot.     

Shabu'ot celebrates the day in which we were chosen by God to receive the Tora and to become the People of the Covenant (bene berit).  The Rabbi Shibole haLeqet explains the relationship between Pesah, Shabu'ot and Sefirat ha'omer: Once the Jewish people came out of Egypt, Moshe revealed to them that in fifty days they will receive the Tora. The Jews were so enthusiastic to receive the Tora that they prepare themselves and counted the days, eager for the great occasion.  

Sefirat ha'omer also reminds us that we too should prepare ourselves to receive the Tora. 

But, how do we prepare ourselves to receive the Tora?  

(To be continued...)

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