May 1, 1999 15 Iyar 5759
Day 30 of the Omer
by Rabbi Reuven Semah
And you shall count for yourselves...from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving" (Vayikra 23:15)
It is interesting that our perashah mentions the misvah of counting the Omer. We are already more than halfway finished. This coming Tuesday we will celebrate Lag BaOmer. Lag BaOmer is the day that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai passed away. Is it merely coincidence that he passed away during the Omer, or is there an important connection? We know, besides the Omer being a time that we count the days until Shabuot, it is also a time period that we mourn the passing away of the 24,000 great students of Rabbi Akiba. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai was one of five new students that Rabbi Akiba taught after 24,000 died in Israel and throughout the world. The Jews light torches of fire to celebrate Lag BaOmer. The torches represent the immense light that R' Shimon brought to the world by writing the Zohar. If the entire Jewish world could celebrate the light brought about by one of Rabbi Akiba's students, imaging how much light we would have today from 24,000 students like R' Shimon. We are reminded of this concept from the fact that Lag BaOmer occurs during the Omer. The Meam Loez tells an amazing true story about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai: One day, Rabbi Shimon and his son, Rabbi Elazar, noticed the world growing darker. They decided to find out what the reason was for this. They met an angel with thirty fiery torches coming out of his mouth. Rabbi Shimon asked the angel why he was here. The angel responded, "Since there aren't thirty great, righteous men in this generation, I have been sent by Hashem to destroy the world!" Rabbi Shimon told the angel to go to Hashem and tell him that Rabbi Shimon is found in this world! The angel returned to Hashem and told Hashem what Rabbi Shimon said, and Hashem responded, "Go back and destroy the world and don't listen to Rabbi Shimon." The angel returned and Rabbi Shimon saw the angel and told him, "If you don't go back I will decree upon you that you will never go back to Heaven. Now go and tell Hashem that if there aren't thirty saddikim then the world will exist with twenty, and if there aren't twenty, the world will exist with ten, and if there aren't ten, then it will suffice with two. If not, one will be enough, and that is me!" At that point a Heavenly voice came out and said, "How fortunate are you, Rabbi Shimon, that I make a decree and you nullify it." My friends, this is one of Rabbi Akiba's 24,000 students. Shabbat Shalom.
by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Say to the Kohanim and say to them..." (Vayikra 21:1)
The Torah repeats the word "emor, ve'amarta" as if emphasizing this commandment that the Kohanim should not become defiled by a dead body. The Rabbis learn from the extra word that we must train our children to keep the misvot just like we do. The question is asked, "Why is the obligation to teach our children to keep the commandants said by the laws of Kohanim and their prohibition to become impure?"
One possible answer is that when a Kohen tells his son not to come in contact with impurity, the son may question his father, "How come the other people don't have this restriction? Even very observant people are allowed to touch a dead body. How come I may not?" The Kohen father must tell his son, "You are different, my son. You are a Kohen. We have greater responsibilities; therefore, more is expected of us." This is the way we should train our children. We have to build them up and show them how great they can be, and that more is expected of them than of the rest of the world. The Jewish people have a mission in this world and when a child realizes that he has a part in that mission, then he will rise to the occasion and become that special person. Compared to the rest of the world, we are a kingdom of Kohanim and therefore have to act and live on a different level! Shabbat Shalom.
"And you shall count for yourselves from the day after Yom Tob" (Vayikra 23:15)
Why do we count Sefirat HaOmer between Pesah and Shabuot? The ultimate purpose of leaving Egypt was to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai. Every Jew is required to occupy himself as much as possible with the study of Torah, but unfortunately people waste much time that could be used for Torah study because they do not appreciate the value of time. Counting the days before Shabuot is a preparation for the receiving of the Torah and it emphasizes the importance of time and its value. It serves as a reminder that we should use every free moment for the study of Torah.
Alternatively, another lesson we learn from the Sefirah is the following: When counting the Omer, we recite a blessing every night. Yet when an entire day goes by and a person forgets to count, he can no longer recite the blessing on the following days. This teaches us that although each day is an independent entity, it also makes a contribution to all other days. Thus, the counting of the Omer before Shabuot emphasizes the importance of each day and that one wasted day of Torah learning also affects the whole future. (Vedibarta Bam)
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