For hatzlacha for Shprintza bas Yocheved Muntscha
Chaim, it's time to get up. Today is the big day. Today is the day you receive your special gift." Chaim practically jumped out of bed and said, "Oh boy, I can hardly wait! I have been thinking about this gift for weeks. I've even been counting the days." Children, I am sure we can all identify with Chaim. How many of us have felt this anticipation of a big event such as a bar mitzvah, a trip, or a special gift? We are so anxious that we can't wait for each day to pass. That is how the Jewish People felt when they left Egypt. They were eagerly awaiting the moment when they would receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. The counting of the Omer is a counting of the days from Pesach until Shavuous. Just as each of us experienced the exodus from Egypt on Pesach, so too we have the opportunity on Shavuous to receive the Torah in its entirety, just as they did at Mount Sinai.
I have a question for you, children.
Barley to Wheat
Children, the Torah is a gift unlike any other gift. One must properly prepare himself to receive the Torah. He must work on refining his character and personality traits until he is fitting to receive the Torah. Now, during the counting of the Omer, is the time to accomplish that. The first day's Omer offering was brought from barley, an unrefined grain fit for animal food. That symbolizes the person in his rough form, before he begins his preparation for receiving the Torah. The offering brought on Shavuous was made from refined wheat, symbolic of the refined personality, capable of understanding and acquiring Torah. How do we work on ourselves to transform our personalities from the roughness of barley to fine wheat?
Be a Plugger
Imma, can you please sign this note from the teacher?" asked Chavi.
The time from the exodus from Egypt until the receiving of the Torah serves as a model for us, children, teaching us how to work on ourselves. In short, start with an inspiration, set yourself a goal, work toward the goal each day, and measure your progress at periodic intervals. Let us begin with the inspiration. Chavi's inspiration was her desire to develop good homework habits. She had excitedly begun to change many times. When her excitement fizzled out, so did her improvement. It was not until her mother helped her develop a plan and put it into effect that she saw real improvement. The exodus from Egypt was a time when the Divine Presence was visible to all. What could be more inspiring than that? Now, we must capture that experience and translate it into a practical plan. That is the counting of the Omer. Each day another step toward the goal. We begin with the number one. It is the smallest number, hardly significant. However, there can be no number two without the number one. All beginnings are important children, even the smallest ones. We continue adding a number each day, as we plug away, progressing toward our goal. Children, now you see why we begin with the number one and count upward. Just as the numbers increase, similarly, our progress grows. We may not notice it each day, but after twenty or thirty days we can look back and see significant improvement. We are now past the halfway point in the counting of the Omer. Children, we should all succeed in refining ourselves to be fitting to receive the Torah this Shavuous.
The Torah tells us in Vayikra 22:32 not to profane Hashem's holy name, rather to sanctify Him. The Gemora in Yuma 86a tells us that making people love Hashem is our way of sanctifying His name. How do we do this? One who learns Tanach and Mishna, serves Talmidei Chachomim and is careful that his relationships with people are pleasant, sanctifies Hashem's name. People who know him will say about him, "Fortunate are his father and his teacher who taught him Torah. Oy to those who do not learn Torah. Look how his ways are delightful, his deeds are refined." On the other hand, if we behave the opposite, we cause people to say not so nice things about Hashem and His Torah. People are watching us, children. We are representatives of Hashem. On the bus, they are watching to see if we give up our seat for an older person. At the store, they are watching to see if we wait patiently for our turn. At the playground, they are watching to see if we play nicely and do not litter. They look to see if our clothes are neat and clean. When they speak to us, they notice if we listen and answer politely or not. You have many opportunities to be a shining example of how Hashem and His Torah can refine a person. Who can think of other examples? As we said before, we now have the chance during the counting of the Omer to make real progress. We must not let it pass us by.
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