I love the season of Sefiras Ha Omer, the forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuos during which we count the Omer. They are elevated above ordinary days. They themselves feel like a Yom Tov! In fact, the Ramban, in his commentary to Leviticus 23:36, explains that Shavuos is related to Passover as Shemini Atzeres is related to Sukkos. Sefiras Ha Omer is the “Chol Hamoed” linking Passover to Shavuos.
This seems evident from our this week’s Torah Reading. The description of the Yomim Tovim begins with the words, “Ele moadai Hashem … these are the appointed festivals of Hashem ….” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:4), and ends with the words, “And Moshe declared the appointed festivals of Hashem to the Children of Israel.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:44) Sefiras ha Omer is included as an integral component of the Yomim Tovim. But these are also days of tragedy, beginning with the death of Rabbi Akiva’s twenty-four thousand students, a catastrophe – described in the Gemora (Yevamos 62b) –almost impossible to fathom.
How we have survived the tzouris that has befallen us over the millennia is a story of miracle upon miracle upon miracle. The amazing thing is that we endure. And that brings us to L’ag B’omer, the thirty-third day of the Omer.
What is the secret of this great day?
We can learn from it that, following overwhelming catastrophes, the Children of Israel go onward. “For though the righteous one may fall seven times, he will arise; but the wicked ones will stumble through evil.” (Mishlei 24:16)
Have you ever thought about Adam and Eve following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden? This is what I write in my book, Worldstorm, Finding Meaning and Direction Amidst Today’s World Crisis:
“Can you imagine their burden on that day, the hot tears flowing as their feet walked out of that perfect world and passed the … angel guarding the entrance through which no man has ever returned? Can you imagine what rested upon their shoulders? Already then they must have felt the guilt of thousands of future generations of their own children, the accumulated pain which was to befall every individual who would ever exist in the future world. It would all come about as a result of their one ‘tiny’ error in Gan Eden. How could they bear it? How could anyone bear the responsibility for such untold suffering?
“The truly amazing thing is that they did bear it. Their greatness is shown perhaps more by the way they bore their exile than by their actions inside the Garden. Adam and Chava did not commit suicide. That same Adam and Chava – whose introduction to life outside the Garden included the murder of one son by another – walked onward through life. They did not give up! They lived to become the parents of yet another son, Seth, who carried the knowledge of G-d onward to the next generation and through whom the hope of the world was to survive.”
Following the Destruction of the First and Second Temples, we did not commit national suicide. There appeared to be no hope. None! But we went onward. And the Torah Nation survives today. Following the Holocaust, we did not commit national suicide. We went onward. And the Torah Nation survives today.
Recently, those who study Daf Yomi began Seder Kodshim. There is something monumental in the fact that tens of thousands of Jews are studying these Tractates of the Gemora whose only focus is upon the laws governing the operation of the Bais Hamikdosh, the Holy Temple, which does not exist! This only makes sense if we know that it will exist again. We have to understand that this is where we are heading.
I was recently davening (praying) at the Kosel, the Western Wall. It struck me how utterly hard and impenetrable those huge stones appear. Can our prayer really penetrate such stone? Of course, our prayer is supposed to go upwards, but I am looking at those stones and they seem so hard. And then I realized: that is exactly the point! The stones are indeed impenetrable. We are on the wrong side! Hashem is going to take us soon to the other side!
We have to understand how vital it is that Hashem should bring the Bais Hamikdosh, the Holy Temple back to us. There is literally no other priority. Right now, Golus/Exile is as hard as those stones. We have to daven with intense concentration that our eyes should soon “behold Your return to Tzion in compassion.” That is where we are going with Sefiras Ha Omer. We are going back to the Bais Hamikdosh, to the other side of the Wall.
Shavuos is the Day of King David. Think about his words. “The Builder of Yerushalayim is Hashem. He will gather in the outcasts of Israel. He is the Healer of the brokenhearted and the One Who binds their sorrows.” (Tehillim 147) Is that not amazing? If we don’t have the strength to rebuild Yerushalayim, Hashem will build it. Soon He is going to rescue us, because we are the Children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Soon He will bring “a redeemer to their children’s children, for His Name’s sake, with love.” (Shemoneh Esreh)
We read in Megilas Rus that Boaz is sleeping on the threshing floor in the middle of the night. He awakens to find Rus lying at his feet. She explains why she has come. Boaz says: “And now my daughter, do not fear.… While it is true that I am a redeemer, there is also another redeemer closer than I. Stay the night. In the morning, if he will redeem you, fine! Let him redeem. But if he will not redeem you, then I will redeem you, Chai Hashem!”
Following are the words of the Ben Ish Chai: when Boaz speaks to Rus, it is as if G-d were speaking to the Children of Israel, saying, “Stay with me through the night. Stay close through the terrible darkness of Exile. The morning of Redemption is coming. If your own deeds and mitzvos – Ploni Almoni – can redeem you, well and good. But even if you lack the merit to save yourselves, I promise that I will save you!”
Dawn is near. If we stay close to Hashem, He will save us!
MOON OVER THE WESTERN WALL