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Friday, June 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Bemidbar / Shavuos

Although I am only covering Shavous in the shtikle, please explore the many intriguing blog posts on Bemidbar below:

The holiday of Shavuos has a unique name. All of the other holidays that adorn our calendar are aptly named for something to do with the chag itself. We sit in sukkos on Sukkos, for example. Rosh HaShanah is the beginning of the year. Our upcoming chag, however, is not called Chag HaTorah, not even Chag HaCheesecake. Rather, it is called Shavuos, referring to the weeks that proceed it. Why is this chag so differently named.


It would seem that the naming of Shavuos is meant to send us a message. We are not meant to view the time between Pesach and Shavuos as a mere lead-up to Shavuos. Rather, these days are an integral part of the chag itself. B'nei Yisrael could not have merited being given the Torah if they had not gone through the seven-week period of spiritual cleansing. Likewise, we must use this period as a preparation for Shavuos just as they did. The preparation is the essence of the chag. Indeed, Nachalas Yaakov writes that the reason why there is no chol hamoeid for Shavuos is because Shavuos is connected to Pesach as one unit and the period of sefiras ha'omer is the chol hamoeid between the two.


On that note, I heard a wonderful thought from my cousin, Dr. Yoel Jakobovits. Indeed, the name "sefiras ha'omer " is rather strange. We are not counting the omer. We are counting from the bringing of the omer. But so what? Why is that the defining characteristic? Would it not have been more appropriate to call it something simpler yet more succinct like "sefiras hayamim?"


HaKesav veHaKabbalah offers a fascinating insight into this name. In the episode of the yefas to'ar (Devarim 21:14), if the woman is no longer desired, she is sent away. The pasuk says, "lo sis'ameir bah," you shall not enslave her. Rashi comments that imra'ah is a Persian word denoting servitude and utilization. This is the same root as omer. Sefiras ha'omer, therefore, is not meant just to remind us of the korban omer. Rather, it is the period which leads up to Shavuos, when we established our ultimate servitude to HaShem and His Torah. Each year, we devote seven weeks towards the reaffirming of that servitude. This understanding gives much more meaning to sefiras ha'omer and what it is meant to accomplish.


Another interesting perspective is offered by Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh – not on the word omer but on the word usfartem. He references the midrash that identifies the stone that the luchos were crafted from as sanperinun, possibly sapphire. The period of sefira is a cleansing process to wipe of the filth that had gathered through our time in Mitzrayim, or in our time, a time to work on our middos and prepare for matan torah by which time we will hopefully regain our luster like the sapphire stone.


Have a good Shabbos and chag samei'ach!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: No Population Increase

Al Pi Cheshbon: Tens and Ones by Ari Brodsky

Al Pi Cheshbon: Rounded Numbers

Al Pi Cheshbon: Pidyon HaBen Probability

Dikdukian: Be or Ba?

Dikdukian: Discussions on Bemidbar by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Letzeis and On top of Old Smokey

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