This issue is sponsored jointly
Vol. 15 No. 32
Meir ben Benzion Sand z"l
whose Yohrzeit is on 14th Iyar
in loving memory of
of blessed memory
Thoughts on Sefiras ha'Omer
(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak)
The Main Objective
When G-d revealed Himself to Moshe at the burning bush and informed him that, in one year's time, Yisrael would leave Egypt, He added that they would worship Him at the very same mountain on which Moshe was now standing.
This was a clear indication that the Exodus from Egypt was not the main objective. But rather, that it was merely a means to an end, and as is always the case, the means is secondary to the end.
The events that were about to unfold were so spectacular and awe-inspiring, that it is difficult to envisage the subsequent Exodus, that served as their climax, as something secondary. So the Torah commanded us to count the Omer, the days in between Pesach and Shavu'os, to emphasize this very fact, for as everyone knows, a day towards which one counts is of a greater significance than the days that one is actually counting.
This phenomenon is easily understood if we bear in mind that the Exodus from Egypt represents our physical freedom, whereas Shavu'os represents our spiritual perfection, which is the very purpose for which we were created. Alternatively, one might say that whereas the former enabled us to live free in this world, the latter presented us with an entr?e to the World to Come, and, as the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos 'This world is the ante-chamber, and the World to Come, the Palace'. (Based on the Seifer ha'Chinuch).
A Reason for the Seven Weeks
Based presumably on the Mishnah in Shabbos (Perek 9, Mishnah 1) which rules that Avodah-Zarah renders Tamei those who touch it like a Nidah, the Medrash ha'Ne'elam compares the seven weeks of the Omer following Yetzi'as Mitzrayim to the seven days of a Nidah. Why is that? Because they were guilty of idol-worship alongside the Egyptians, as we find in the prophesy of Aharon, who warned them to relinquish these evil practices.
So just as a Nidah requires seven days to purify herself, so too, did Yisrael in Egypt, require seven weeks (a week for a day), since their Tum'ah, inasmuch as it was due to communal transgression, was infinitely worse than that of an individual. And, by the same token, just as a Nidah needs to immerse herself in water, so too, did Yisrael need to immerse themselves in the Torah, which is also compared to fire, when it was given on Shavu'os.
Reasons for Not Reciting 'Shehechiyanu'
We only recite 'Shehechiyanu', says the Kol Bo, either over something that is new or an occasion that brings in its wake happiness and joy. That is certainly not the case here, as counting the Omer reminds us that the Beis-Hamikdash is still destroyed and that we cannot bring the Korban Omer, which in its time, would spark off the Mitzvah of Sefiras ha'Omer. Indeed, the commentaries point out, we say 'Yehi Rotzon
' for this very reason, in the hope that the Beis-Hamikdash will be rebuilt soon, so that the Mitzvah mi'de'Rabbanan will revert to its original status of a Mitzvah d'Oraysa.
In similar vein, the Minchah Belulah explains that when Yisrael left Egypt, they left with the intention of receiving the Torah at Sinai, but they knew that this would only take place in fifty days time. And they found the long wait between their departure and their arrival at Har Sinai agonizingly frustrating. Hence, they did not recite 'Shehechiyanu'.
Whilst the Maggid Meisharim, citing R. Binyamin ha'Rofei, attributes the non-recital of 'Shehechiyanu' to the fact that the Torah itself connects the counting of the Omer to Pesach, when it writes "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after Shabbos (with reference to the day after Yom-Tov"). Consequently, the 'Shehechiyanu' that we recite on Pesach will cover the Mitzvah of Sefiras ha'Omer, too.
One may well query this from Succah, Lulav and Shofar, which require their own 'Shehechiyanu', even though one has already recited it over the Yom-Tov. That, replies the Magid Meisharim, is because, unlike Succah, Lulav and Shofar, counting the Omer does not involve an action that would render it sufficiently important to require its own 'Shehechiyanu'.
Standing for Sefiras Omer
One stands for the B'rachah over the Omer, says the Rosh, because the Torah writes in Re'ei (16:9) "when the scythe begins to cut the standing cord (ba'Komoh)", which Chazal read as 'be'Koimoh" (whilst standing).
And the same applies to the B'rachah over Tzitzis and Lulav, both of which we learn from Sefiras ha'Omer with a Gezeirah-Shavah "Lachem" "Lachem", which is written in connection with each of the above three Mitzvos ("U'sefartem Lochem"
Vehoyoh lochem le'Tzitzis").
According to the Magid Meisharim, the three Mitzvos for which one is obligated to stand are Sefiras ha'Omer, Tzitzis and Tefilin, whose first letters spell 'Atzas', and which are therefore hinted in the Pasuk "Atzas Hashem le'olom ta'amod". In other words 'For the Omer, Tzitzis and Tefilin of Hashem, one should always stand'.
When Yom-Tov was Shabbos
If the Torah wants to instruct us to begin counting the Omer on the day after Yom-Tov, the commentaries ask, then why does it refer to it as "the day after Shabbos" (a 'discrepancy' which caused the Tzedokim to err and to begin counting the Omer each year on Sunday)?
The Roshei Besamim answers this question, based on one of the fundamental differences between Shabbos and Yom-Tov. The Kedushah of Shabbos is sanctified by G-d, irrespective of whether Yisrael observe it or not, as is evident from the B'rachah 'Baruch
Mekadesh ha'Shabbos'). Whereas that of Yom-Tov is determined by Yisrael (just like it is fixed by them [as the Pasuk says "
asher tikre'u osam [spelt 'atem']"); and if they fail to sanctify it, it retains its mundane status. The one exception to this hard and fast rule was that of Pesach Mitzrayim, which Yisrael were not yet on the level to sanctify, and which G-d saw fit to sanctify on His own, just like Shabbos. Hence it bears the title 'Shabbos'.
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(Adapted mainly from
the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)
A Meis Mitzvah
"And for his sister who is a virgin
The Gemara in Nazir (47b) learns from this Pasuk that a Kohen is permitted to render himself Tamei on behalf of a Meis Mitzvah.
Upon citing this ruling, the Rambam defines a Meis Mitzvah as one who is lying in an area which is so secluded, that if the finder were to shout for help nobody would hear him.
The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. however, consider the Rambam's opinion too stringent. They maintain that if the Kohen is the first one to come across the corpse, and there are no relatives around to take care of the burial, then it is considered a Meis Mitzvah - even if there are others within earshot who will undertake to bury it if called to the scene.
The Minchah & the Nesech
"And its meal-offering two tenths (of an Eifah)
and its libation a quarter of a Hin of wine for each lamb" (23:13).
Chazal point out, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., that this (the lamb of the Korban that is brought together with the Omer) is the only lamb in the Torah whose Minchah exceeds a tenth of an Eifah.
The Nesech however, is the standard quarter of a Hin that is brought together with all lambs.
That explains, says the Da'as Zekeinim, as to why we specify in the Musaf Tefilah of Shabbos 'Three Esronim for each bull
and an Isaron for each lamb' (our text reads "And two tenths of fine flour for a Minchah" (for the two lambs). This is because, as we explained, there is a lamb that requires two tenths of an Eifah; therefore it is necessary to specify that the Musaf of Shabbos requires the standard tenth (and not two).
Regarding the Nesech however, no amount is mentioned, only 'and its drink-offering', since there are no exceptions to the standard quarter of a Hin.
Changing the Comma to Fit the Trop
until the day after the seventh week you shall count fifty days, and you shall bring a new Minchah to Hashem" (23:23).
To understand this Pasuk, says the Gur Aryeh, we need to change the comma and to read it like this: "
until (but excluding) the day after the seventh week you shall count, fifty days (i.e. on the fiftieth day) and you shall bring a new Minchah to Hashem".
The Rosh, who also explains the Pasuk like the Gur Aryeh, proves the above explanation from the 'Trop' (the Leining notes). He points out that the Trop under the word "tisp'ru" (and you shall count) is a 'Tipcha', which separates "you shall count" from "fifty days" (rather than a 'Mercha', which would have joined them).
A Broken Box & a Rocking Ship
"And you shall take flour, and you shall bake it (ve'ofiso osoh) twelve loaves
There is a dispute as to whether the loaves were baked in the shape of a broken box (a box minus its two opposite sides); or like a rocking ship (with a pointed base).
The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that, remarkably, the Gematriyah of "ve'ofiso osoh" is equivalent to both 'K'miyn Teivoh P'rutzah (a broken box)' and 'S'finah Rokedes (a rocking ship)'.
All Because of Yisrael
"And you shall arrange them in two rows, six in each row
The Lechem ha'Panim, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, comprised twenty-four Esronim made into twelve loaves, corresponding to the twelve Mazalos (constellations) which revolve twenty-four hours a day. And there are six loaves in each row, corresponding to the six days in which the world was created, since everything was created for the sake of Yisrael.
An Egyptian Trait
and he was the son of an Egyptian man" (24:24).
That's what caused him to curse the Name of Hashem, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. comments; for it is the way of the Egyptians to degrade Hashem, like we find with Paroh, who brazenly said to Moshe ("Who is Hashem, that I should listen to His Voice" and) "I don't know who Hashem is!"
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"My people Yisrael, just as Our Father is merciful in Heaven, so too, should you be merciful on earth. Do not Shecht an ox or a lamb together with its son, on the same day" (22:28).
"And you shall keep My Mitzvos and do them; I am Hashem who gives good reward to those who observe My commands and My laws" (22:29).
"But on the tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement, a holy convocation it shall be for you; and you shall afflict your souls from food and drink, from enjoying the bath-house, from perfumes, from marital relations and from wearing shoes
"It is a Shabbos and a rest for you
and you shall begin to fast on the ninth of the month towards night-time; from that night until the following night you shall observe your fast-day, your day of rest and keep your Yamim-Tovim with joy" (23:32).
"Seven days you shall bring a Korban in the name of Hashem; you shall gather to pray before Hashem for rain, all servile work you shall not do on the eighth day, it shall be for you a holy convocation, and you shall bring a Korban before Hashem" (23:36).
"And you shall take from your own (i.e. not from what is stolen) on the first day of the Chag the fruit of a beautiful tree, Esrogim, Lulavim, Hadasim and Aravos that have grown beside the river
"You shall dwell in a Succah consisting of two complete walls and a third wall up to a Tefach, which has more shade than sun and which is made for the sake of the Chag, from species that grow from the ground, but that have been detached from it; its length is seven Tefachim and its space, ten Tefachim high. You shall dwell In it for seven days - all males (even small children who no longer need their mothers) shall dwell in a Succah, and you shall bless your Creator whenever you enter it (23:42).
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
Not to Create a Chilul Hashem
We are obligated to refrain from desecrating G-d's Name (the opposite of 'Kidush Hashem', we are commanded to perform [as the author has already explained in Mitzvah 296), as the Torah writes in Parshas Emor (22:32) "And you shall not desecrate My Holy Name ". The Rambam is quoted as saying 'And this sin is divided into three parts, two, general, and one specific; Anyone who is ordered to contravene any of the Mitzvos in the time of Sh'mad (forced conversion), assuming that the intention of the person who issues the command is to make the person transgress, is obliged to sacrifice his life and to allow himself to be killed, rather than transgress, irrespective of whether the Mitzvah is a light one or a severe one. And the same applies to someone who receives a command to commit idolatry, adultery or murder. One who declines to give up his life and transgresses has committed the sin of Chilul Hashem (in public, if it is in the presence of ten Jews), a terrible sin. It is not subject to Malkos however, since it he has been forced to do it, and Beis-Din only have the right to sentence to Malkos or to death there where the transgressor sinned on purpose, of his own freewill, in front of witnesses and with warning. This is what the Sifra says (on the Pasuk in Kedoshim, in connection with someone who gives his children to Molech) "And I will place My Face against that man", "that man", 'but not an Oneis (if he has been forced), not be'Shogeg (inadvertently) and not if he was tricked into it'. And if a person is not Chayav Kareis (excision) for a sin that he commits be'Oneis, then he can certainly not be sentenced to death for a sin that he performed be'Oneis. Nevertheless, he is guilty of having committed a Chilul Hashem.
The second general part of Chilul Hashem is where a person performs a sin even without the least desire to do so, and even though he derives no benefit from having done it. In that case, his intention is to anger G-d. This too, is included in the La'av of Chilul Hashem, only in this case he will receive Malkos. And it is in this connection that the Torah writes (in Kedoshim [19:12]) "And you shall not swear falsely by Hashem's Name, and desecrate the Name of Hashem your G-d in the process. For this would seem to make G-d angry, since there is no physical benefit to be derived from this
The specific section of the La'av pertains to when a well-known and Ba'al-Tzedakah and person of repute does something which people think is a sin (even though really it is not), an act that is not befitting for a person of his caliber. That too, is a Chilul Hashem, and it is in this connection that the Gemara asks in Yuma (86a) 'What is Chilul Hashem?'
To which Rav answered 'for example, if I were to buy meat from the butcher and no pay cash (at a time when credit was not as common as it is today)'. Whilst R. Yochanan gave the example of himself walking four Amos without Torah and without Tefilin
And we find this Mitzvah repeated in Acharei-Mos, where the Torah writes (18:21) "And do not desecrate the Name of your G-d; I am Hashem".
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