Just two weeks have passed since we put away our Pesach dishes, but it seems like ages ago. But that is a great mistake! Did you know that Pesach doesn’t end until Shavuos? The Ramban tells us at the end of Emor (23:36) – this week’s sedra here in Eretz Yisroel, next week’s for those of you in chutz la’aretz) –
“These days of counting are similar to the days of Chol HaMoed that are in between the first and last day of Sukkos . . .”
Knowing this should make us jump for joy! All those weeks of preparation did not end after eight days –
they continue all the way until Shavuos!
But how are they similar to Chol HaMoed and what should we be focusing on during these special days?
49 Days of Self-Growth
Last time we saw that one of the primary purposes of the ten plagues was to awaken Klal Yisroel’s faith in Hashem so that they could act upon it. Indeed, they reached the level of being able to slaughter the Egyptian god without any fear, and leap into the raging Red Sea upon Hashem’s command. But that was not sufficient.
During Yetzias Mitzrayim they were raised to a level higher than what they were really worthy of. But once the light of that special day stopped shining, they would have fallen down to where they had been before if they had not taken immediate action. They began counting toward the day they would receive the Torah and 49 days of preparation commenced. The result was that they became truly worthy of receiving the Torah.
It is clear that intense self-perfection in many areas was necessary to merit the great revelation of Hashem’s glory on Har Sinai. But it is also possible to suggest that one of the things they focused on was living with the reality that Hashem was their Master. Thus, they internalized the clear lessons in emunah they had been shown, and returned to the level where they had been when they left Mitzrayim – through their own efforts.
This was not merely a historical event. The Ramchal in Derech Hashem tells us that during every important event in Klal Yisrael‘s history there was a spiritual light and it shines each year, on a smaller scale, when that time of the year comes around again. To gain the most from that light, we must prepare ourselves to tap into it.
Tapping The Light
The Maharal tells us that there is an integral difference between the meal offering sacrificed in the Bais HaMikdash on Pesach and the one that was brought on Shavuos. On Pesach we offered the omer from barley, which is animal food, but on Shavuos, the shtei halechem, the two loaves of bread, were from wheat, which is human food. This teaches us that in order for us to retain the level we reached on Pesach we must throw away our animalistic character traits. Only then can we hope to reach great spiritual heights.
One of the ways in which we act similar to an animal is in forgetting to think about the source from which all things come. Does an animal think about where its food comes from? It sees food in the feeding trough or grass in the meadow and doesn’t give two hoots who put it there. During the days of sefiras haomer we must rise to the level of being a human who understands the source of his food: the Master of the Universe.
One of the reasons Hashem wanted Klal Yisrael to offer this korban was for this reason. After all the effort the farmer invested in his field throughout the winter, there was a danger that when he reached the harvest he would pat himself on the back and think he accomplished it all. Thus, the Torah forbids him to harvest or consume his crop until after he has sacrificed the Korban Omer to Hashem. (Nowadays, when we unfortunately do not sacrifice the Omer, the new crop becomes permitted once the day when it used to be offered has passed.) This instills in him, and the rest of Klal Yisroel, the reality that Hashem is the One taking care of him.