Emor 2021 Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס"ד
Discover the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
Counting the Omer
During this time of the year, we count the Omer. Omer literally means “gathering,” as barley sheaves were gathered for the Omer offering, also mentioned in this parsha. The Omer offering was one of the unique offerings that could only come from the Land of Israel. Perhaps for this reason we don’t coin this offering in our blessing upon counting the Omer as the “barley offering” or “bikurim offerim,” but rather [literally speaking] “counting from/of the gathering (Omer)”, for “gathering” may also hint to the gathering of the People of Israel in the Holy Land, as it says (Isaiah 27, 12) “In that day Hashem will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one.”The term “be gathered”in this verse is the word “leket,” which usually refers to the gathering of sheaves of grain, just like the Omer is a gathering of such sheaves. In this way, we can see our counting as not only counting towards the Giving of the Torah, which was accompanied with the sounding of the redemptive shofar, but also to the Redemption involved with the “gathering of Exiles to the Holy Land” also accompanied with the shofar blowing, as it says (ibid. 27, 13): ” And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great shofar shall be blown, and they shall come those wandering in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship Hashem in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” In parshat Vayikra, the Torah stated: “And if you bring a meal-offering of first-fruits (“bikkurim”) to Hashem, just-ripened, roasted in fire, ground of a moist kernel, you shall bring the meal-offering of your first-fruits” (Vayikra 2:14). Our Sages teach that this verse, which uses the word “bikurim,” actually refers to the Omer offering, which is the first grain of the year.
There are ramifications of the Omer offering nowadays as well, such as the commandment regarding chadash, the new produce, prohibited both in the Land and outside it. This new produce is defined as produce of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye) that took root in the ground any time prior to the sixteenth of Nisan. It is prohibited to eat this new produce until the end of the sixteenth of Nisan, the second day of Pesach, and the date on which the Omer offering was brought. By contrast, produce that took root after the sixteenth of Nisan (or after the seventeenth in the Diaspora, which keeps two days of Yom Tov) is prohibited until the end of the sixteenth of Nisan of the next year (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 293:1-3).
How do we know that this offering must come specifically from the Land of Israel? The Rambam rules (Hilchot Temidin VeMusafin 7:5): “This meal offering may be brought only from The Land of Israel, as it is stated (Vayikra 23:10): And you shall bring the omer, the first of your harvest, to the priest.” The basis for this verse as a proof can be found in the Rambam’s source, the Sifra in Parshat Emor, which states that “your (in plural) harvest” excludes the Diaspora, which is not the People’s (in plural) land as a nation.
The Rambam continues to explain (ibid 7:13) that even the permissibility of reaping the new grain without eating it is limited: “It is forbidden to reap any of the species of grain in The Land of Israel before the reaping of the omer, as it is stated (Vayikra 23:10): “The first of your harvest,” [implying that] it should be the first [grain] that is reaped. To what does the above apply? To a harvest from which the omer offering could be brought. [A field located] in parched land in a valley, by contrast, may be reaped before [the reaping of] the omer because it is not fit to bring [the omer offering] from it. [Even such grain] should not, however, be collected in a grain heap.” It should be noted that commentaries dispute whether this law applies today in the absence of the Beit HaMikdash.
The Omer offering reminds us that before we benefit from new produce we must recognize that Hashem is Master of all nature and has caused the fields to grow this new produce. The unique connection of the Omer to the Land also reminds us that this recognition is enhanced in the Land of Israel, the Land of Special Providence. Hebron, Home city and first Jewish settlement in this Holy Land hints to the unity and “gathering” through its name Hebron, which means unity, and by the redemptive blasts of the shofar associated with it, as we have mentioned, as is found in the Tikunei Zohar. May it be that with this redemption, recognition, and inspiration that may we merit soon to raise the Omer offering to the Beit Hamikdash, the pinnacle point of The Holy Presence.
Real Stories from the Holy Land:
“For a number of years, I had not seen some friends of mine who had been living in America while I lived in Israel. One day, they came to Israel, but I was so busy with household chores that chances were slim that I would meet them. However, on one of the days they were here, my wife sent me to do my “chores” by shopping in a specific neighborhood in Jerusalem. It “turns out” that at that very same time my friends “happened” to also be at that shopping center, so we met again after so many years…”