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Counting The Omer - Why?

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Counting The Omer Guide


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By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

Dean of Jewish Studies

B'nai Noach Torah Institute, LLC


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Course Text Begins Here:

The Sefirah


The goal of this discussion is to provide some information and history leading up to the reasons for Counting הָעְוֹמֶר Haw Ooh Mehr, The Omer. The Word used in the Brachah we say each evening after Maariv is הָעְוֹמֶר Haw Ooh Mehr. We say,


בָּרוּךְ אַתַּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָםאֲשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעְוֹמֶר.ר


When actually counting we say לָעְוֹמֶר or בָּעְוֹמֶר . However the Word Ha Torah uses is עֹמֶר Oh Mehr five times, הָעֹמֶר Ha Oh Mehr five times and בָעֹמֶר Vaw Oh Mehr one time.


When we speak of the Omer this is in reference to the day after Pesach / Passover when we bring everything from Aleph to Tav of the Omer of the first fruits of our harvest to the priest; And the Priest waves everything from Aleph to Tav of the Omer before the Lord, so our offering will be by The Lord accepted for us. On the day after Pesach when the Omer is waved by the priest we are to begin counting for seven weeks and for forty nine days. The fiftieth day is the giving of Ha Torah on Mt Sinai. This is Shavuot, the fifth day.


Vayikra 23.10 - 21

Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, When you come to the land which I give to you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring everything from Aleph to Tav of the Omer of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; And he shall wave everything from Aleph to Tav of the Omer before the Lord, to be accepted for you; on the day after the day of rest [Pesach / Passover] the priest shall wave it. And you shall prepare on the day when you wave everything from Aleph to Tav of the Omer, a male lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering to the Lord. And the meal offering of it shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord for a sweet savor; and the drink offering of it shall be of wine, the fourth part of a hin. And you shall eat nor bread, nor parched grain, nor green ears, until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. And you shall count from the day after the day of rest [Pesach], from the day that you everything from Aleph to Tav of the Omer of the wave offering; seven complete weeks, i.e. Seven Sabbaths; To the next day after the Seventh Sabbath shall you count fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal offering to the Lord. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bull, and two rams; they shall be for a burnt offering to the Lord, with their meal offering, and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire, of sweet savor to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the Lord with the two lambs; they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day, that it may be a holy gathering to you; you shall do no labor in it; it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.


As a point of interest עֹמֶר Oh Mehr makes reference to the amount of manna gathered by each man gathered while living in the Wilderness.


Exodus 16.13-18

And it came to pass, that at evening the quails came up, and covered the camp; and in the morning the dew lay around the camp. And when the dew that lay was gone, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as hoarfrost on the ground. And when the people of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna; for they knew not what it was. And Moses Said to them, This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord Has Commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons, whom each of you has in his tent; And the people of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did measure it with an omer, he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.


Counting the Omer is a Mitzvot. We are Commanded by The Lord God to count the Omer each year following the day of Passover. Our Sages Teach that one of the many purposes for counting the Omer for forty nine day is because The People of Israel had fallen to the forty ninth level of impurity. Thew purpose of counting the Omer is for us as a people is to rise out of our impurity to receive Ha Torah on the fiftieth day. So when we were in Mitzrim / Egypt in slavery in our lowest state we began the climb from the forty-ninth level of impurity to the fiftieth level of purity. This was not forty nine steps. This was forty nine steps out of impurity PLUS fifty steps up to purity. We actually climbed ninety-nine steps. 


Every year from our deliverance from Mitzrim when we count the Omer there are very important reasons why we do this in addition to this being a Mitzvot / Command of The Lord God. Each of us are scattered some where along the steps from the lowest level of impurity to purity. Each day when we count the Omer we are to take account of actions. We are to do two steps of Tikkun. We need repair. We need restoration. We need to climb the stairs of return. Our world needs Tikkun Olam / Repairing The World. We do this by the Sefirah. The Lord Said,


Leviticus 11.45

For I am The Lord that Brings you out of the land of Mitzrim, to be your God; you shall therefore be Holy, for I Am Holy.


This is what counting the Omer is about. Our goal is to climb from where we are to higher levels of holiness. This can ONLY be accomplished through Ha Torah.


Psalms 19.8 - 

The Torah of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even very fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned; and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Clean me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer.


Week One


חֶסֶד שֶׁבְּחֶסֶד

Kindness restores Kindness

גְּבוּרָה שֶׁבְִֶּחֶסֶד

Strength restores Kindness

תִּפְאֶרֶת שֶׁבְִֶּחֶסֶד

Beauty restores Kindness

נֶצַח שֶׁבְִֶּחֶסֶד

Endurance restores kindness

הוֹד שֶׁבְִֶּחֶסֶד

Humility restores Kindness

יסוֹד שֶׁבְִֶּחֶסֶד

Bonding restores Kindness

מַלְכוּת שֶׁבְִֶּחֶסֶד

Kingdom restores Kindness



Our Sages Teach that we were delivered from Mitzrim on account of these things:

First, The People of Israel were redeemed because of the merit of Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov and Yoseif. Ha Torah Says, 


And God Remembered His Covenant. For Israel were not worthy of salvation, since they were wicked, but they were redeemed because of the merit of their fathers; hence is it written: And God Remembered His Covenant.


Exodus 6.2 - 5

And God Spoke to Moses, and Said to him, I Am The Lord; And I Appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, byThe Name of God Almighty, but by My Name 'The Lord' I was not known to them. And I Have also Established My Covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning, in which they sojourned. And I Have also Heard the groaning of The People of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in slavery; and I Have Remembered My Covenant.


Second, The People of Israel kept their Hebrew Names

Rabbi Huna in the name of Bar Kappara said: Israel was redeemed from Egypt on account of four things, one being because they did not change their names. Shemot Rabba 1.28

And these וְאֵלֶּה / Vih Ay Leh are the names Another explanation: Rabbi Abhu said: Wherever the text says 'these' אֵלֶּה / Ay Leh, this invalidates those things previously mentioned, but wherever it says 'And these' / Vih Ay Leh, it adds new praise to those previously mentioned. Here is an example from Genesis 2.4.


Bereisheit 2.4

אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ בְּהִבָּרְאָם בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהִים אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם: ה

These אֵלֶּה / Ay Leh are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.


The אֵלֶּה / Ay Leh does not include the Letter ו VavThe result is Genesis 2.4 cancels the preceding creations, which were reduced to formlessness and emptiness. Wear as Genesis 46.8 and Exodus 1.1 which have the Letter Vav And these וְאֵלֶּה / Vih Ay Leh are the names, add new praise for the seventy souls who are mentioned intimating that all of them were righteous. Shemot Rabba 1.2


Bereisheit 46.8

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה יַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו בְּכֹר יַעֲקֹב רְאוּבֵןט


Genesis 46.8 - 26

And these are the names of the people of Israel, who came to Egypt, Jacob and his sons; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn...


Shemot 1.1

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרָיְמָה אֵת יַעֲקֹב אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּב


Exodus 1. 1 - 5

And these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came to Egypt, with Jacob, every man with his household. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. And all the souls who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; for Joseph was in Egypt already. 


Israel is of equal importance with the host of heaven; for here it says NAMES, and in reference to the stars, the word 'names' is also used, as it is said: He counts the number of the stars; He Gives them all their names . So the Holy One, blessed be He, when Israel came down to Egypt, counted their number, too, and because they were likened to stars, He called them all by their names. Hence it is written, Now THESE ARE THE NAMES. Shemot Rabba 1.3


Tehillim 147.4

מוֹנֶה מִסְפָּר לַכּוֹכָבִים לְכֻלָּם שֵׁמוֹת יִקְרָאה

Psalms 147.4

He Counts the number of the stars; He Calls them all by their names.


Jeremiah 40.26

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things; who brings out their host by number, he calls them all by names by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. 


The Zohar writes about the symbolic meaning of Exodus 13.13.


Exodus 13.13

And every firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break his neck; and all the firstborn of man among your children shall you redeem.


'The ass and the lamb symbolize the evil and the good inclinations. The very evil can be turned into good by repentance: the 'ass' must be redeemed by a 'lamb'. In other words, even if a man is an 'ass', a spiritual ignoramus, he can be redeemed from the exile of darkness and be included in the redemption of Israel, 'the scattered sheep. mentioned in Jeremiah 50.17. But if he does not repent, Ha Torah Instructs, 'you shalt break his neck', meaning, he belongs to the stiff necked ones who will be blotted out from the Book of Life.' The Lord Said that unrepentant sinners would be blotted out of The Book Of Life.


Exodus 32.33

And the Lord said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot from my book.


Bereisheit 1.1

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץב


Genesis 1.1 tells us that God Created אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם everything from the Letter Aleph to The Letter Tav of the Heavens and וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ everything from the Letter Aleph to The Letter Tav of the Earth. God Created everything. 


Our Sages Teach that when the Lord God Created the Heaven and Earth He Created the Host of The Heavens on the second day. However, Day Four is when the Stars of the Heavens were Created. 


Third, The People of Israel kept Hebrew as their language.

The Woman were not immoral. They did not commit adultery. R. Akiva said in a discourse that Israel was redeemed from Egypt on account of the righteous women of that generation. Shemot Rabba 1.12


Fourth, The People of Israel were redeemed Mitzrim because of the righteous women of that generation.

Rabbi Akiva said that The People of Israel were redeemed from Mitzrim on account of their righteous women of that generation.


History

The people of Israel lived in Mitzrim 210 years. The People of Israel were in slavery for 116 years before the Creator Delivered them. When The People of Israel came to Mitzriam they were righteous as noted later in this discussion. However while in Mitzrim The People of Israel fell to the lowest possible level that one can return to the Lord God. They fell to the forty-ninth level on impurity. Rabbi A. Y. Kahan The Taryag Mitzvot (Brooklyn, N.Y. Keser Torah Publications 1987, 1988) p 190


Genesis 15.13

And He Said to Abram, Know for a certainty that your seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;


2048 From Creation

This count began with the birth of Yitzchok.


Exodus 12.40

Now the sojourning of the people of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.


2018 From Creation

This count began when Abraham and Sarah visited Eretz Canaan when Abraham was 70 years old in Genesis 15. Rabbi Avrohom Davis, The Mesudah Chumash A New Linear Translation Vayikra (Hoboken New Jersey, KTVA Publishing House, Inc., 1994) pp 141 - 142



The People of Israel were NOT SLAVES for 400 years. They were afflicted for 400 years. They sojourned in a land that was not their's for 430 years. 


2238 From Creation

Jacob went down to Mitzrim / Egypt when he was 130 years of age, See Genesis 47.9. Levi was 43 years of age when Jacob went to Mitzriam. Levi lived 137 years.


2332 From Creation

Levi lived 94 years in Mitzriam.


2448 From Creation

The people of Israel lived in Mitzrim 210 years. The People of Israel were in slavery for 116 years before the Creator Delivered them. When The People of Israel came to Mitzriam they were righteous as noted later in this discussion. However while in Mitzrim The People of Israel fell to the lowest possible level that one can return to the Lord God. They fell to the forty-ninth level on impurity. Rabbi A. Y. Kahan The Taryag Mitzvot (Brooklyn, N.Y. Keser Torah Publications 1987, 1988) p 190


Blessings Health, Prosperity Kindness and Peace,


Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

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