“Affluence has the most pernicious effect on a person’s character, causing them to be haughty and arrogant… This can be avoided if a person acknowledges that Divine source of wealth instead of boasting that ‘my mighty hand has gotten me this wealth’ (Deut. 8:17). With the onset of the barley harvest, which is the earliest before beholding the abundant produce in the storehouses and on the field, man must recognize that his strength is illusory, for ‘all is vanity’ (Keheleth 3:19). Thus God has commanded us to offer up the earliest product of the harvest presenting the priest one omer as a token of gratitude… only after the omer has been offered up on the altar may Israeli enjoy the new produce of the year.”
You have celebrated the Feast of your Liberation (Passover) and remembered before your God your independence, living in your land and eating its produce. You have therefore reached your freedom and the benefits of independence, the very goals all nations aspire to. You, however, are but on the threshold of your calling as a nation, and have started counting the days to the attainment of another goal. The Torah expresses the commandment of the Omer thus: “From the first time you put the sickle to reap the crops, you shall commence to count seven weeks” (Deut 16:9). When others cease to count, you being your counting.
Counting (“sefartem” ספרתם) refers to the word sapir, meaning light, illumination. Thus “u’sefratem lachem” – ספרתם לכם – comes to mean “create for yourselves illuminations”. And these illuminations refer specifically to the elements of “on the morrow of the Sabbath”. The work of Sefirat haOmer should be specifically in the secular and concrete elements of life, those of the “morrow of the Sabbath”. Thus the seven weeks of the Omer are for finding elevation and holiness within that which is permitted, the bodily pleasures, the breadFor bread has two meanings in the Torah – actual bread, and sexual intercourse – food and sex. Distilling our relationship to these two elements is the new grain offering we are asked to offer at the end of the fifty days.
Suddenly we are back in the world of actual grain, the Omer is about how we deal with “Bread”. Yet as the Slonimer notes, it is no longer about us as producers of grain, but as its consumers. This is where we need the work of refinement and distillation. Its not an easy process – and it requires disciplined daily work in order to be met.