Israel Forever

For the week ending 10 May 2003 / 8 Iyyar 5763

Counting the Days

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When you are looking forward to something in the future - a holiday, a vacation or a wedding you impatiently count the days. In this weeks Torah portion a special sort of counting is mandated to the Jewish people keeping track of the days and weeks between the festivals of Pesach and Shavuot. Each evening for seven weeks observant Jews make a blessing and then declare which day of the Omer it is.

This bridge of time between the Festival of Freedom and the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, one which we are currently traversing, conveys a most important message for all who value the freedom of Israel as a Jewish homeland. On both festivals flour-based offerings were part of the service in the Beit Hamikdash the omer of barley on Pesach and the two loaves of wheat on Shavuot. Barley is classified in the Talmud as a grain principally used for animal consumption, while wheat is the prime human food. The symbolism suggested by the commentaries is that Pesach, the Festival of Freedom, represented a physical liberation from Egyptian bondage which was only a "barley level" of animalistic freedom. Only when this freedom was guided by the Torah given to them by their Divine liberator did the freed Israelites reach the "wheat level" of human reason and responsibility which is the ultimate freedom.

As we now count the days towards Shavuot, in reliving the excited anticipation of our ancestors on their way from one level of freedom to another, we should apply the message of this transition to our own period of history. Achieving independence from the British Mandate and establishing a Jewish state must be viewed as only the "barley level" of physical freedom which must be followed by a national return to Torah values in order to achieve a "wheat level" of spiritual freedom which alone can guarantee the success of Israel forever.

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