It is a mitzvah of the Torah to count the days between Pesach and Shavuos – for Shavuos marks the calendar date when Hashem gave us the Torah. Although Iyar does not contain many holidays, every single day of the month is included in the S’firas HaOmer counting. S’firas HaOmer is a period of serious introspection and self-refinement, as we prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew on Shavuos. Each day of Iyar represents another step in this spiritual journey toward Sinai.
Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz explains that we cannot cause Shavuos; we can build the path. We build on the Omer, on what we have as a beginning at Pesach. That is our focus: “Today is one day of the Omer” – we have built one day; “Today is two days of the Omer” – we have built two days. Counting is building.
Rebbetzin Shira Smiles discusses great ways we can embark on a path of growth during S’firas HaOmer. “Every individual must introspect and find the points that are lacking in his own individual avodas Hashem. It may be different for every person. Yet there are three approaches we can all take.
The first approach is the mishnah that tells us that Torah is acquired through 48 ways. The Baalei Musar recommend that a person should work on a different midah every day. The 49th day is chazarah (review).
The B’nei Yisaschar offers a second approach. The Mishnah in Avos tells us: Rav Elazar teaches that a leiv tov is the most important midah. Leiv is equivalent to 32. The first 32 days of the S’firah should be devoted to rectifying mitzvos bein adam l’chaveiro (between man and man). The last 17 days, corresponding to “tov,” should be dedicated to mitzvos bein adam laMakom (between man and G-d).
The third approach is based on a maxim by Rabbi Elazar HaKefar, “Jealousy, desire, and honor, remove a person from this world.” Just as we must repent for evil actions, we must repent for evil thoughts. The Beer Yosef writes that the korban haOmer was brought at the very point when the Mahn (manna) ceased falling. The Mahn teaches us an important lesson connected to the S’firah. Everyone received the exact portion of Mahn that they needed. From this we can deduce that there is no room for jealousy. If a person believes that what is meant for him he will receive, and that no one can take what is his without Hashem’s consent, he will never suffer from envy. The second aspect is desire. Rav Schwab points out that when we count, we must see ourselves as the barley being cut from the ground. We must lift ourselves off of our materialism so that we can become a chariot for Hashem. The third dimension is respect. If we sensitize ourselves to our Divine image, our own internal aspect of k’dushah, we will in turn recognize it within others and treat them with the proper kavod.”
Whether it is working on the 48 ways, acquiring a leiv tov, or uprooting jealousy, desire, and honor, we must toil and never give up. Then we will be blessed doubly with the siyata diShmaya (Divine support) to complete our destined mission. Then Hashem will lift us up and help us finish the task.