פרשת אמר Sefirat HaOmer: Counting the days of the giving of the Torah

In this week’s Torah reading we learn about the Mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer – the counting of the Omer: “And you will count from the day after the Shabbat, from the day you bring the Omer wave offering, seven complete weeks. Until the day after the seventh week you shall count fifty days, and you will bring a new meal offering to H-shem.” (Vayikra 23: 15-16) These verses are cryptic as to what they are referring to.  When is the day after the Shabbat?  Which Shabbat?  The Rabbis tell us that the Shabbat being referred to is the first day of Pesach, because if this means the Sabbath – the seventh day of the week – we don’t know which one.  (Rashi 23:11)

What happens as a result of this counting? We bring a new offering, two loaves of bread (verse 17) some other sacrifices (v. 18 – 20)  Then in verse 21 we are told to make this day, the 50th day of counting the Omer, a Yom Tov.  But we are not told what the name of this holiday is, and we’re also not told what calendar day it falls on.  What is the secret here?   We are told to bring  “new” offering on that day.  The day is the holiday of Shavuot, the day of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.  Why didn’t the Torah tell us explicitly that this day is for the celebration of the giving of the Torah?  Because H-shem didn’t want to limit the day of commemorating the giving of the Torah to a specific day.  We should view the Torah as new to us every day.  We should view every day of the year as if we were given the Torah that same day.

By the same token, the Torah doesn’t give a calendar date for the Yom Tov Shavuot.  We know that Shavuot falls on 6 Sivan, but the Torah doesn’t say that anywhere.  Rather it is on the 50th day after the Omer, after we have counted seven whole weeks.  From the simple meaning of the verses, Shavuot is dependent on the Jewish people counting the seven weeks of the Omer.  If we don’t count, there will be no Shavuot.  We have to do the counting, and the preparation that this involves, in order to arrive at Shavuot in the proper purification to accept the Torah.  But nevertheless, we have to be on that level every day in order to accept the Torah as new.

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