web analytics
August 21, 2014 / 25 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Every Step Counts

YU-051013

By the time these words are printed, there will be only a few more days left before Shavuos. We hope that up until that point, we will still have been counting the days of Sefiras Ha’Omer with a bracha, but we also know that too often, despite our best efforts, we drop out of counting with a bracha some time before the count is complete. The halacha defers to the minority view of the Behag that disallows one from counting with a bracha if he or she has missed any single day of the sefirah, as the Torah’s term “temimos” (complete) in describing the weeks of the omer, would no longer apply.

It is not clear why such a stringent approach, so challenging for fallible, forgetful humans, is necessary. Many have suggested that the Behag’s opinion differs from that of other rishonim in the consideration of the following question: Should the forty-nine days of Sefiras Ha’Omer be seen as one big mitzvah, or as forty-nine separate mitzvos? If the entire sefirah is one mitzvah, it is understandable that any missing part disqualifies the whole. On the other hand, if the sefirah count actual entails 49 separate mitzvos, it would seem that each day is independent, and missing one day should not affect any other day.

Rav Soloveitchik, however, understood the matter differently. In his view, sefirah is made up of 49 individual mitzvos. If so, why is it an issue to miss a day? He explained that the concern is actually not that missing one part of the whole invalidates the whole. Rather, the issue involves the definition of counting. If one were to, for example, declare “five” on the fifth night, but not count the previous numbers, this would not be called counting, but rather “saying a number.” Counting, by definition, requires a deliberate process of marking all of the elements of a set. If earlier items are uncounted, then later items, even if a number is attached to them, are also uncounted.

Rav Soloveitchik’s halachic analysis may also be relevant, in a homiletic sense, toward understanding one of the more difficult aspects of Sefiras Ha’Omer. While this is not described in the Torah, the observance of the sefirah period has taken on a character of mourning. While there are many theories to explain this, the most well-known link the observance to the statement in the Talmud (Yevamos 62b): “Twelve thousand pairs of students of Rabi Akiva died, and all perished in the same (segment of) time. This because they did not conduct respectfully each with one another…. They had died from the time of Pesach until Atzeret (Shavuot); they died a bad death, from (that disease of ) ‘askara.’” A slightly different version of the events appears in the midrash (Bereishis Rabbah, section 61a) that ends with the words, “So, set your minds not to conduct yourselves that way [like the students].”

This passage is always difficult to consider. The notion that Rabi Akiva, who held up “V’ahavta l’reacha kamocha” as the crucial principle of the Torah, should have so many students who treated each other so disrespectfully that they deserved to die, is a deeply painful thought that has caused many to struggle to understand. My father, Rabbi Dr. David M. Feldman, brought to my attention the essay of R. Eliezer Levi in his work Yesodot HaTefillah, who builds upon the statement of Rav Sherira Gaon in his Iggeret, that the students of Rabi Akiva died as a consequence of resisting shmad, efforts to force conversion upon them, during the time of the rebellion of Bar Kokhba.

In this understanding, as Rav Levi displays, the Talmud is, out of political necessity, discussing the situation b’remizah, in hinted, coded language. Thus, the relevant passages can be read as essentially the opposite story: the students did treat each other respectfully, and we are told to be like them, rather than to be unlike them.

However, both versions, as different as they are on the facts, emerge as two different ways of saying the same thing: the mourning period of Sefiras Ha’Omer is a time to focus on treating each other with proper respect.

Perhaps, the halachic perspective on the counting and the thematic perspective on the time period can be viewed as connected. The mitzvah of Sefiras Ha’Omer in Rav Soloveitchik’s assessment, requires us to perform 49 independent, deliberate acts of counting, each separate from each other, but each unable to take place if any of the previous countings have not happened. Maybe the homiletic message is this: the sefirah is the countdown to the receiving of the Torah, the defining moment in the history of the Jewish people. That moment most certainly deserves tremendous focus, perhaps of the single-minded fashion. However, that comes with a risk.

About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman is rosh yeshiva at Yeshvia University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Every Step Counts”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
An IAF fighter jet on the way to a mission.
Israel Confirms: 3 Top Hamas Military Commanders Killed in Gaza
Latest Judaism Stories
Azrielli Tower - Shema Yisrael

A bit of (non-Jewish) history can help us understand this week’s Torah portion: In the early 1500s, the Catholic church was being fundamentally challenged by movements which claimed it had monopolized religious power and used to enrich the church and its officials. The most radical of these movements were a particular sect of Anabaptists. Anabaptists […]

Leff-081514

“When a mother plays with her child there is an acute awareness of the child. But even when the mother works at a job or is distracted by some other activity, there is a natural, latent awareness of her child’s existence.

Business-Halacha-logo

“Guess what?” Benzion exclaimed when he returned home. “I just won an identical Mishnah Berurah in the avos u’banim raffle.”

The-Shmuz

While it’s clear to you and to me that a 14,000-pound creature can easily break away from the light ropes holding it, the reality is that it cannot.

An Outcast
‘He Shall Dwell Outside His Tent’
(Moed Katan 7b)

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Menachem
Via Email

Based on the opinion of the Ramban, the Territorial School believes that leaving any territory of the Land of Israel in the possession of non-Jews is a violation of a biblical mandate.

“But they told me to come in today,” she said. They gave me this date months ago. It’s not my fault if it’s the wrong day.”

Tosafos there takes issue with Rashi’s view that the letters that are formed in the knots of the tefillin are considered part of the name of Hashem.

Blind obedience is not a virtue in Judaism. God wants us to understand the laws He has commanded us

What does Hashem want of us? That we should protect each other and the awesome heritage He gave us.

Israel is the only place where we have the potential to fulfill our mandate as the chosen people.

The innkeeper smiled and replied, “Why do you think we are dancing? We are dancing because G-d destroyed the Bais HaMikdash!”

One of the manifestations of the immature person is a sense of entitlement.

More Articles from Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman
YU-070414-Figures

Respect for basic human dignity is such a powerful concept that it overwhelms some areas of Jewish law.

YU-051013

By the time these words are printed, there will be only a few more days left before Shavuos. We hope that up until that point, we will still have been counting the days of Sefiras Ha’Omer with a bracha, but we also know that too often, despite our best efforts, we drop out of counting with a bracha some time before the count is complete.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/every-step-counts/2013/05/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: