Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

“When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest.”  (Leviticus 23:10)

Parashat Emor includes a complete listing of the holidays in the Jewish calendar.  Included in the descriptions is the injunction to “…Count for yourselves from the morrow of this festival [Pesach]…you shall count fifty days.” (Lev.  23:15-16).  This is s’firat ha-omer, the counting of the omer, and it connects the holiday of Pesach to the holiday of Shavuot.

An omer is a unit of measure. Each day an omer of barley was brought to the Temple.  Over time the offering itself became known as the omer.  The ritual is usually done in the evening, starting the second night of Pesach, and begins with a blessing. Then each day is counted off (“today is the ___th day of the omer”).  The ritual closes with a plea that counting the omer will help us overcome our failure to observe fully the Torah’s commandments.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski (1930-; an American chassidic rabbi and a psychiatrist specializing in substance abuse) observes that s’firat ha-omer does more than just keep track of how many days are left before Shavuot. It reminds us of the importance of living life one day at a time.  The Israelites who left Egypt are abused, oppressed, and spiritually bereft, yet 50 days later, at Mt. Sinai, they achieve an unprecedented spirituality. This is because Moses guides them each day to a new level of spirituality, which enables them to take another step the next day.   Over time, the steps add up and bring them to a state of readiness to receive the Torah. This day-by-day approach to spiritual growth (or mastery of any challenging task) is as applicable in today’s “hurry-up” world as in Moses’ time.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David