We are in the middle of sefiras ha’omer, right? Well, we are also in the middle of a column exploring what those very words mean! Sefiras ha’omer? The counting of the omer? The omer, Rashi explains in Parshas Emor, is a specific dry volume measurement, and it was also the amount of flour used in most minchah offerings. What does the counting of the omer mean? And what does it mean when we say, “Today is day _________ in, or to, the omer?” From the omer would seem to be a more appropriate choice of words.
Also, it is true that the omer is the name the Torah chooses for this particular minchah, brought on the sixteenth of Nissan, which sets off the counting of 49 days till Chag HaShavuos. But why pick as its name the name of its flour-measurement? And one which happens to be what it shares with most other menachos?!
We saw last week how the Avudrohom combines the two reasons for sefiras ha’omer given by the Chinuch and the Sforno, respectively. We are counting and anticipating Matan Torah; also, given that we need to have our physical needs met in order to maintain our spiritual side, and given that in the agricultural framework of the Torah, Pesach and Shavuos are celebrating the ripening (aviv) and the reaping (katzir) of the crops, it is a time when we pray to HaShem for the success of those crops. Thus, the counting serves to focus us on the need to turn to HaShem for that success. This is thus a fitting preparation for the giving of the Torah.
The Sefer Hakesav Vehakabala (Rav Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenberg [1785-1865], a talmid of Rav Akiva Eiger), writes that the word omer has another meaning — that of servitude, obedience, and having a yoke. This is derived from the pasuk teaching us lo sisamer ba — not to press into servitude the yefas to’ar, a non-Jewish captive of war (Devarim 22:14). He states: we acknowledge through bringing this korban omer that the success we have achieved in this physical world is only for the purpose of our spiritual advances — and this is all the more vital, and reinforced, during sefiras ha’omer. We are counting days of avdus, days of omer, days of preparation for the ultimate avdus HaShem, Matan Torah.
And so they are yemei omer, days of developing our servitude to HaShem… And yes, we are counting sefiras haomer, the counting of that developing servitude. And it is not by coincidence that the mahn that served to virtually compel Bnei Yisrael to serve HaShem (which is the basic reason that the mahn did not fall more often than once a day; see Yoma 76A) was exactly and precisely a tenth of the eifah per person — an omer!!
The pasuk says (Shemos 16:35) that Bnei Yisrael stopped eating the mahn “when they reached inhabited land [in Eretz Yisrael]…” Yet it also says there that they ate the mahn “until they came to the edge of Eretz Yisrael,” which would be Arvos Moav, where they encamped on the east side of the Yarden before crossing. Rashi explains that the mahn stopped falling when Moshe Rabbeinu died (Adar 7), but Bnei Yisrael ate from the mahn that they had already picked until they brought the korban omer in Eretz Yisrael on 16 Nissan. And so they stopped eating mahn on… the day of the omer! This can be understood on a deeper level: The omer of mahn that Bnei Yisrael ate in the desert was without human effort. Thus, it more easily served as an instrument of omer — i.e., servitude to HaShem. But now Bnei Yisrael had entered the Land; now they would start living a “normal” lifestyle of hishtadlus, one of working the land, reaping, gathering, etc… This necessitated a new kind of omer, the korban omer, dedicating our work, our energies, our efforts, to the service of HaShem. And we recognize that now, too, no less than in the desert, HaShem is providing for us, and we serve Him in gratitude for that miracle. And we dedicate our lives to Him and His service.
Thus we indeed count sefiras ha’omer; and we indeed say this many days to (or in) the omer — to the process of omer — of committal, and of subjugation to the will of HaShem.
We asked last week why Rashi chose to make his point about the omer being a measure from the pasuk which states (in Parshas Hamahn) that Bnei Yisrael measured the mahn with the omer measurement rather than the more focused pasuk which tells us the “the omer is a tenth of an eifah.” The answer is that Rashi is showing us this connection between the mahn and the omer that we are familiar with, the korban omer. The words, “And they measured…” are saying that what they picked as their sustenance was done with the omer, with subservience to G-d. This would then be expected to be emulated and duplicated when there was no longer any mahn-omer, but “only” korban-omer, the korban which kicks off the period of time crucial to our temporal success. And we hope and pray that success there, regarding our physical needs, will be a prelude to our success at being avdei HaShem.