As we get closer and closer to Zman Matan Toraseinu, it becomes more and more of an imperative to make our counting… well, count. We have already established that the preparation to receive the Torah fittingly consists of working on molding ourselves to be “in the image of G-d” by emulating His middos, the ways in which He relates to things outside of Himself, and that the primary one among them is the middah of chessed, the very concept of helping, and doing for, another. The Torah and its mitzvos are then the embodiment and the perfection of the seven middos, and the variations created by the interfacing of each middah with every other one.
What does all this have to do with how the Torah sees this preparation and anticipation period — as the interlude between a barley-flour offering (the omer), brought on the second day of Pesach, and a wheat-loaf offering (the shtei halechem),brought on Chag Hashavuot? How does the road from Mitzrayim to Sinai get these two offerings as their signposts? After all, they are not even the main korbonos hayom, they are not intrinsically associated with the Yomim Tovim on which they are brought! And they are so indispensible as the settings of sefirah that most Rishonim hold that sefirah when there is no Beis Hamikdash, meaning when these offerings are not brought, is only mid’rabbanan!
The basic idea of these meal-offerings is connected to the agricultural cycle, the temporal settings of our Yomim Tovim. They relate to our food supply, and with the idea that we, by offering them up to Hashem, are making a statement that we are aware that our sustenance, our maintenance, our basic needs, are provided for not by outside forces, not by our own abilities or competence, but rather by Hakodosh Baruch Hu. And if an animal korbon relates to one’s very existence and life-force, the meal-offering touches upon what sustains and nourishes us.
These two meal-offerings, one of barley and the other of baked loaves of wheat, are brought at the time that the produce of the field, the basic life-staple of man — grain — has finished growing, has been cut, and is being readied to completion in the fields.These menachos run the gamut from a second-class grain (which barley was always considered) to the finest form of the higher-grade grain, wheat. And through these menachos we express, we pray, we acknowledge, we give thanks, and we praise Hashem for providing for and maintaining the provisions of those needs. (This explanation of these offerings is from the Sefer Hachinuch, and is based on Gemara Rosh Hashanah 16A.)
What does this have to do with Yetzias Mitzrayim and Matan Torah?
“Do not allow the mitzvah of omer to be insignificant in your eyes… for Avraham Avinu merited to inherit Eretz Yisroel in the zechus of the omer offering, as the possuk states, “…and I shall give you and your descendants [Eretz Yisroel]…. and you shall keep my covenant” (Medrash Rabbah, Vayikrah,28:6. See Bereishis 17:8,9).
We go to the story of Gideon in Shoftim Chapter 6, where the Midianites are terrorizing the Israelites, not allowing them to harvest their crops. A malach Hashem appears to Gideon while he is threshing the wheat kernels. Gideon launches into a spirited defense of Klal Yisroel, “demanding” that despite any faults Bnei Yisroel may have, they deserve yeshuas Hashem, no less than the Jews in Egypt who merited leaving Mitzrayim (see Rashi there)! And, as the story develops, Gideon is shown a sign from Heaven that he would miraculously be victorious in battle against the Jews’ enemies. The sign? A roasted barley bread (see perek 7 for the circumstances in which this sign was shown). Rashi there (7:13) explains, “A barley bread: Gideon was being shown that it was in the merit of the omer that the yeshuah would now come.”
Why is the omer offering a bris? Why do we receive Eretz Yisroel through its fulfillment? What was happening with Gideon, that of all the possible merits, his evoking Yetzias Mitzrayim gave rise to the omer as the appropriate zechus?
Simply this: you cannot get from Yetzias Mitzrayim to Matan Torah, its goal and purpose, without the omer (and its concurrent offering, the shtei halechem)!
You want to be G-dly? You want to emulate the middos of Hashem as represented by the 613 mitzvos? What about the physical side of you? How are you relating to that? Is it your spiritual side’s adversary, something contending with it for your attention and diligence? How are you relating to it? What about this world, the world of labor, toiling in the field, the obsession with meeting daily needs, food, sustenance, etc.? What are you taking out of that world?
It’s all about Hashem — every single aspect of the world. Whether it is to enable our avodah, or to go about our mundane lives because it is the will of G-d,or to use it as a jumping-off point to recognize, be aware of, and to acknowledge Hashem’s existence, power, and might, and our utter dependence on Him for everything — it’s all about Him, and what He wants from us — in any part of our lives. And that is bringing G-dliness to our entire lives.
We make that statement, that we are prepared to serve Hashem in that way, when we bring the omer and the shtei halechem. The earth, the food, our crops, our toil — it’s not us, it’s not about us. It’s doing Hashem’s will.
That’s the message of the omer. That’s the merit of Eretz Yisroel, the holiness of the very earth! When we bring the omer properly, we merit Eretz Yisroel, and we extend our service of Hashem,our G-dliness, from purely spiritual matters to being spiritual beings in every facet: spiritual, physical, from barley to wheat.
You can’t get from here to there, without the omer.The omer technically allows us to partake and enjoy of the new crop; and in a larger sense, it allows us to be part of this world, to live in the Land Hashem chose for us, for it directs and focuses G-dliness and spirituality into the resources of the world.The Midianites (non-spiritual forces) tried to take it for themselves, but Gideon says: Pesach! Omer! and goes to do battle, to emerge victorious, and allowed us to continue to be able to achieve a full-fledged Matan Torah.
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