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Counting of the Omer

Counting of the Omer

Rav Sitruk: "Spiritual pressure during the Omer"

Published on Tuesday May 21th, 2019

Since the generation of the Geonim, this period of the Hebrew Calendar is a moment of mourning caused by the loss of the 24 000 students of the famous Rabbi Akiva, which represents a great tragedy. However, a number of questions arise:

Has there ever been such a long time of mourning? Actually, even the period related to Tisha Be-Av and to the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem only last nine days. So then, what is the reason why the whole nation must cast in mourning during the Omer?

The answer that I quote is in the name of the Rav Moshe Shapira:
This mourning does not relate only to the loss of the students of Rabbi Akiva, but to the loss of a dimension called "kavod HaTorah". The Mishna in "Pirkei Avot" (Sayings of the Fathers) tells us that a "Bas Kol" (a voice came from heaven) came out from har Sinai every day saying: "Woe for the loss of this value called Kavod HaTorah! "- Here labeled by the expression "Elbona Shel Torah": the shame that we give the Torah!

It is known that the Hebrew word “kavod” expresses "weight" and the main importance that we attach to something. What is being asked of us here is that the Torah should have the "weight" that it deserves in our eyes, meaning that it should really count in our life. Because a person who has really understood the message of the Torah cannot live without it! It is for him the most essential dimension in his life. That is the meaning of the expression "Kavod HaTorah".

It should be noted that by adding the numerical value of each letter of the word Kavod, we get to the number 32 which corresponds precisely to the 32 days of the Omer during which wedding are not celebrated… It should also be noted that the events which took place during this period of the Hebrew calendar are all and always "waiting" for something.

In fact, I would like here to refer to the famous "Yom Hashoah" which marks the immense contemporary tragedy, nothing can be compared to it, it is an opportunity for us to meditate on the meaning of our history. We say "we" because this unspeakable tragedy has surely in all its facts and details a profound meaning that has escaped us… certainly, we cannot really – yet explain, but we can no longer deny that this tragedy also has an explanation.

Concerning Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, they undoubtedly denote the entry of the Jewish people into a new era: that of the Geula! On this subject, the prophet Tsefania says in verse 20 Chapter 3 of his prophecy: "At this time, I will bring you and gather you, and you will become a subject of admiration and glory in the eyes of the nations. You will see it with your own eyes, said G-d".

However, in the conclusion of this prophecy, our generation has the immense merit to see this promise announced that is more than 2 000 years happening and to see these two periods mentioned by Tsefania: the “Ahava of G-d for His people" and the reuniting little by little to His land, then the complete return to Eretz Israel.

I believe for I heard myself from my leaders - that we are in fact precisely between these two times: G-d has indeed begun to bring us back to Eretz Israel, but there is still unfortunately many Jews living outside of Israel. However the second period - currently in progress - is that of the complete “Kibbutz Galuyot  “ - which means the return of all the Jews to the land of Israel.

In this intermediate period between Pesach and Shavuot, one finds both the permanence and the fragility of the period of the Omer: everything is to be conquered and nothing is final yet, just as the counting that we change every day… and it will continue until we come to the 49th day. In the meantime, we are like someone who climbs the steps of a staircase, but who has not yet reached the destination.

Every day we climb a little more, one step at a time. In the same way, the Jewish nation is reuniting because the Geulah is approaching. This is the dimension of the Omer “a time of progressive growth which is named with its own crown the “Keser Torah”.

Rav Yosef-Chaim Sitruk - © Torah-Box

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