Kollel Beis HaTalmud
Yehuda Fishman Institute's

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parshas Emor

Sefiras HaOmer - Count Me In
Rabbi Yosef Levinson

The period of Sefiras HaOmer (Counting the Omer) is known as the time of preparation for Kabbalas HaTorah (receiving the Torah). There is an aspect of sefira that can help us look at this yearly occurrence in a new light.

The Torah gives jurisdiction for the establishment of the Jewish calendar to the Beis Din (Jewish court of law). Even when the moon is clearly visible, if the Beis Din feels that there is a need, they may delay being michadesh (sanctifying) the new month. This in turn, affects when Yom Tov falls out. If chas v'shalom the institution of Beis Din would cease to exist and we would not have the present day calendar as established by Hillel, there would be no way for us to determine dates to celebrate Yomim Tovim (See Sefer Hamitzvos L'haRambam, 153 with Hasagas HaRamban). It is for this reason that we conclude the bracha of kedushas hayom (the middle blessing of Shemoneh Esrei which describes the essence of the day) for Shabbos with the words mikadesh HaShabbos, whilst on Yom Tov we say mikadesh Yisrael v'hazmanim. The kedusha, sanctity, of Shabbos is an inherent feature of the seventh day, but the kedusha of Yom Tov is dependent on Kedushas Yisrael. Therefore before we mention the kedusha of Yom Tov, we insert the Kedushas Yisrael.

The holiday of Shavuos is an exception to this rule. The Torah states that Shavuos is celebrated fifty days after the Omer is brought, regardless of the day it falls on (It can fluctuate between 5 - 7 Sivan see Rosh Hashana 6b). After the Beis Din sanctifies the month of Nissan, they have no further role to play in relation to the timing of Shavuos. Even if hypothetically speaking, the Beis Din would lose its authority at that time, the celebration of Shavuos would not be affected.

It seems then that Bnei Yisrael should have no role to play in the sanctification of Shavuos. Yet on Shavuos we also say the bracha - mikadesh Yisrael v'hazmanim.

The Sheiltos writes that the commandment to count the Omer and to sanctify Shavuos was not given exclusively to the Beis Din; it was also given to Bnei Yisrael (Sheitlos D'Rav Achai Gaon, Emor 107 as quoted by HaEmek Sheila based on Menachos 65b). The Netziv explains that it is the counting of the Omer that sanctifies Shavuos. However, the counting and sanctification of Shavuos is not dependent solely on Beis Din. The Torah states u'safartem lachem. Each and every one of us has a mitzva to count and in turn each and every one of us brings about the sanctification of Shavuos.

Shavuos is the anniversary of Kabbalas HaTorah. The Torah was not only given to the Sanhedrin (Jewish "Supreme Court"), it was given to the entire nation. To emphasise this point, Hashem determined that Shavuos would be sanctified only through each and every individual's acceptance of the Torah. Since this requires spiritual preparation, we were all given the mitzva of sefira. We must all count (the Omer) because we all count!

Each individual's process of counting represents his own struggle to acquire his designated portion of the Torah. He must count for himself, and cannot fulfil his obligation through someone else (We do not say shomea k'oneh when it comes to sefira see Orach Chaim 489:1; Mishna Berura 489:5) - for how can another person acquire the portion of Torah set aside for him? We must all recognise that we have something unique to contribute to the Torah and without this, the rest of the nation will be missing something from the Torah. We can not rely on others - we must do it ourselves.

Conversely, we must also appreciate that just as we have our own portion in the Torah, which we must share with others, so too, everyone else has their portion, which we must receive from them. As the Mishna states: "Aizeh hu chacham halomeid mikol adam" - Who is wise? He who learns from every person(Avos 4:1).

The Torah is rachava minei yam, wider than the ocean 8. However knowledgeable someone might be, there is always something new we can teach or explain to them. Also however knowledgeable we are, there is always something that we can learn from others. One person might be proficient in a certain messechta (tractate), or seder (order of Mishna), while someone else might know another messechta. They can offer each other assistance in grasping difficult concepts in the other messechta. One person might be more analytically inclined, while another has a very broad background in bekiyus (general knowledge). They should all share with each other and also accept from one another. But Torah is not just limited to learning.

In Parshas Bamidbar the passuk states: "V'eileh toldos Aharon u'Moshe b'yom diber Hashem es Moshe Behar Sinai" 9 - "These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe on the day Hashem spoke with Moshe at Har Sinai".

The Torah continues with a listing of Aharon's children, but there is no mention of Moshe's offspring. Rashi's deduces from this that one who teaches his friend's son Torah is considered to have given "birth" to him. This is truly an insightful lesson. However, this parsha seems an unusual place to teach it. Parshas Bamidbar only discusses the counting of the Bnei Yisrael. Wouldn't it be more fitting to mention this lesson which pertains to the significance of Talmud Torah in a parsha which discusses many Torah laws? (e.g., Parshas Mishpatim contains all the dinim (civil laws) along with mishpatim and many more mitzvos, Parshas Tazria-Mitzora deals with the difficult area of tuma and tahara, spiritual purity and impurity). What is conveyed by teaching this lesson here in Bamidbar? The answer is that Torah infuses every aspect of life. Even a census has to be conducted in the proper manner, and for the proper reasons. Moshe gave over the entire Torah to Aharon's children, yet he would be considered as a father to them for having imparted this lesson alone!

May we learn the lessons of sefira and may we together strive for continued spiritual growth and re-accept the Torah.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper, provided that this notice is included intact.

Back to This Week's Parsha

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel