By Rabbi Sruli Deitsch, Chabad of Bronxville
We are currently in middle of the most introspective period on the Jewish calendar, known as “the Omer”—the 49 days beginning on Passover, the festival of our freedom, and culminating with Shavuot, when we received the Ten Commandments.
Counting of the Omer is not only the simple act of connecting two major events from our early history, but is intended to recall how the original counting period actually served to bridge these events, transforming a group of simple slaves into a spiritually elevated people.
It began with Passover, the first step in our spiritual journey. Egypt at the time was the world center of immorality, slavery, and materialism— the antithesis of everything the new nation of Israel would stand for. So before anything else, G d commanded the Jews to pack their bags and flee.
Once they had left Egypt and severed their ties with its negative influences, they were externally free from the demons of Egypt but had not yet changed internally. Inside, they were exactly the same group of slaves. The inner change that would make them ready and worthy to receive the wisdom of G d’s Torah had not yet taken place.
To this end, they were instructed to count the days of the Omer—a transformational period during which they would cleanse and change themselves from within. Seven weeks of hard work and daily exercises in spiritual refinement. Only after completing this rigorous program, would they be considered ready and worthy to receive the Torah.
We, the descendants of the original Jews, still count the Omer annually, just like the very first time, to refine ourselves internally and prepare ourselves to recommit to the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot.
Erev Shavuot begins May 19.