Count for Yourselves
The 12th day of the Omer
"And you will count for yourselves from the morrow after the shabbat, from the day that you brought the omer as a wave-offering; seven complete weeks; including the day following the seventh week you will number fifty days; and you will present a new meal-offering unto HaShem." (Leviticus 23:15)
No sooner have we been delivered from Egypt, with "signs and wonders," with "a strong hand" and "an outstretched arm," then we are commanded to "count for ourselves." Why, in the midst of these many miracles we have witnessed, are we suddenly told to be introspective? Why this call, out of nowhere, as it were, for accountability? What have we done?
We have done nothing. And that, in great part, it why we have been given the mitzva of "counting for ourselves." With profound loving kindness G-d has pulled us out of Egypt. His bright and penetrating light has lifted us from the darkest depths of the forty nine levels of impurity into which we have sunk during our long stay in Egypt. Another moment of spiritual degradation in Egypt, and the Israelite nation would have been lost forever. Time was of the essence. We were instructed to act in haste, not allowing for our bread to leaven, and prepare ourselves for departure. And that light, like a wave, lifted us up and carried us out of Egypt. And just as soon as we emerged unscathed, the light departed. How could it have stayed with us? In our haste we had no time to prepare ourselves to receive the light. To internalize it.
"Take your time. Don't rush." How often do we hear this common expression? For as we know, "haste makes waste." Anyway, "what's your rush? Nobody's going anywhere." The Torah teaches us otherwise: time is literally of the essence. Time is holy. We do have a destination. We are going somewhere. There is a time to make haste, to prepare ourselves quickly. To rush to perform a mitzva. There is a time for introspection. To utilize each holy moment to take stock. To improve ourselves. To make ourselves open to accept G-d's light and fit to hold onto that light.
The day following the first night of Passover, we are commanded to harvest the first of the barley crop, and to offer this Omer in the Holy Temple. Our sages referred to the first barley harvest as being a grain fit for beasts. Feed for our livestock. Forty nine days later, on the eve of Shavuoth, the festival marking the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, we have readied ourselves for the Shavuoth offering of the two loaves of leavened bread, made from the first of the wheat harvest: food truly fit for human beings.
When it comes to taking stock, there are two time related elements: we must make haste to begin the process. To locate where we are today. Now. Making an accounting for ourselves, however, taking the necessary steps toward raising ourselves spiritually, is a gradual and deliberate process. To allow for "the better angels of our nature" (Abraham Lincoln), to rise and inspire us takes time, holy time.
When G-d took us out of Egypt, He did it in a flash. It was all so fast that soon that grand sense of being truly free men that we experience on the Seder night has departed. What's left is the imperative to "count for ourselves," to start taking stock as we better ourselves for our everlasting inheritance of freedom: the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai.
On this week's TEMPLE TALK, Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss in depth the forty nine days of spiritual growth which tie the Passover festival to Shavuoth, and how these forty nine days impact on our entire year. They also address issues raised by listeners concerning the positive commandment to "revere G-d's Holy Temple" by ascending the Temple Mount.
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