Shabbat Schedule:  Friday- Shabbat, May 12-13



Torah Reading :  Emor: Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23

Haftora: Ezekiel 44:15-31


Shabbat Candle Lighting: 7:45 PM
Shabbat Ends: 8:51 PM 


Pirkei Avot - Chapter 4

For more on Pirkei Avot, insights and commentaries, click here 






Animal Food

We are now in the midst of the period known as Sefirah. It is based on the commandment in this week’s parsha to count 50 days from Passover until the Holiday of Shavuos, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

This Mitzvah, to count the days between Passover and Shavuos, is referred to as Sefiras Ha’Omer, the Counting of the Omer. The Omer was a measure of barley offered in the Bais Hamikdash-The Holy Temple on the second day of Passover. From that day onward, we are to count 49 days and then on the 50th day observe the Festival of Shavuos.

In Chassidic literature the question is raised why this offering had to be from barley whereas all the other flour offerings in the Temple were made out of wheat? Barley was considered to be an inferior grain intended mostly for animals. The only other barley flour offering was the one a suspected adulteress had to bring to the Temple. The Talmud explains the reason for her barley offering: “She behaved in an animalistic way, therefore her offering should come from a grain fed to animals.” In other words, the inferior quality of grain served revealed to the woman and all others that the errant behavior came from the Animal Soul.

This conveys a dual lesson for us:

First, we have an Animal Soul and our immoral behavior comes from our Animal nature. Second, we have the ability to overcome that animalistic impulse because we also possess a G‑dly soul. Indeed, the G‑dly soul is our true inner essence.

This explains why a woman suspected of adultery had to bring an offering that reminded her of her animal instincts.  But why would a Festival offering, associated with holy festivals of assembly, Passover and Shavuos, also have to come from barley?

Chassidic thought explains that when we left Egypt as liberated slaves we had been exposed to the impurity of Egypt for generations.  We had to refine our Animal Souls before being worthy and capable of receiving the Torah. Hence the offering of barley, animal feed, helped us refine the Animal Soul within us.

Once we brought the Omer offering we were commanded to count the days, as a way of dealing with our individual characteristics to bring light and refinement to them. Each day that we count is not just a repetitive exercise to know how many days we have until Shavuos, but it is a refining process. Indeed, the very word for counting in Hebrew, Sefirah, also has the connotation of bringing light.


Why the Focus on the Omer?

In light of the above, one may wonder why this ritual is known as the Counting of the Omer?  An “Omer” is simply a unit of dry measure, equal to one-tenth of an ephah. A more appropriate name for this Mitzvah would have been “Counting of the Mincha-flour Offering,” or “Counting of the Barley Offering,” since barley was an important part of the Mitzvah. Why identify the Mitzvah by a secondary and ancillary aspect of it such as the unit of measure rather than by the barley or the flour itself?

The Midrash may have anticipated this question when it connected the Counting of the Omer with Manna, the heaven-sent food the Jews lived on throughout their 40 year sojourn in the desert. The Manna too consisted of an Omer’s worth of food. No matter how much one collected, the daily portion of Manna never had more or less than the volume of an Omer.

Rabbi Berechyah said:

The Holy One, blessed is He said to Moses: “Go and say to the children of Israel, ‘When I used to give you the Manna, I gave an Omer to each one of you, as is written ‘An Omer per person.’ (Exodus 16:16). And now that you are giving Me the Omer offering, I have prescribed for Myself nothing but a single Omer from all of you. And moreover, it is not from wheat but of barley.’”

Our offering of the Omer is thus a vivid reminder of the Omer of Manna that G‑d provided in the desert.

We can now understand why a measure of Omer was so significant. We brought the Omer offering to remind ourselves that G‑d takes care of all our needs.  No matter how much we may try to accumulate more than G‑d has ordained for us it will not change what we receive, just as the Manna was uniformly one Omer for all no matter how much each person collected.

This reinforces the idea that the barley offering represented the need to refine the Animal Soul. The “argument” presented by the Animal Soul that causes us to sin is that we are in charge of our lives. The more we think we are independent of G‑d’s power and blessing, the more emboldened the Animal Soul becomes to the point that it exclaims: “It’s my life! I can do whatever I want!” Whereas the G‑dly soul always humbly realizes its dependence on G‑d, the Animal Soul is focused solely on itself and its needs; anything it does to satisfy those needs is fair game.


Omer and Redemption

The Midrash also states that the merit by which the Jewish people entered the Promised Land was the offering of the Omer. Significantly, the Manna ceased descending on the first day of Passover, the day before the Omer was offered.

It follows, then, that the future and final Redemption is also connected to our internalizing the lesson of the Omer offering.

To understand the redemptive power of the Omer and discover an even deeper reason for the emphasis on the Omer measure of barley, we must refer to a story recounted in the Midrash of how Haman was defeated because of the Omer:

When Mordechai saw Haman approaching him with his horse, he said, “I believe this wicked person comes only to kill me.”

Now, Mordechai’s disciples were sitting and learning before him. He said to them, “get up and flee, lest you be burned by my coal.”

They replied, “We are with you and will not leave you whether to be killed or to live.”

What did he do? He wrapped himself in his talis and stood in prayer before the Holy One, blessed is He, while his students sat and learned.

Haman asked them, “What are you studying.”

They replied, “The Mitzvah of the Omer which Israel would offer in the Temple on this day.”

He said to them, “what did this Omer consist of? Was it gold or silver?”

They replied, “barley.”

He inquired, “What was its value?” Was it worth 10 kantars?”

They replied, “10 manehs sufficed.”

He said to them, “Rise, for your 10 maneh have triumphed over the 10,000 silver kantars [that I gave to the King Achashveirosh]!”

From this Midrash we see that the Omer contributed significantly to the salvation of the Jews in the days of Haman.

But, the question can be asked, what so impressed Haman about the Omer that he realized his decree was doomed?

The Rebbe once explained that Haman saw how the Jewish youth were engrossed in the study of the laws of the Omer, which could only be brought in the Bais Hamikdash.  At that moment he realized that their hope for and trust in G‑d’s promise to bring the Redemption was so formidable that nothing could stand in their way.

The fact that they were oblivious to the threats of Galus and were engrossed in the offering of the Omer demonstrated that they were already living in the time of Redemption. There is no greater power to overcome Galus than to live in the future!

A question remains.  Granted that they were empowered by their preoccupation with the service of the Temple of the future, how is this reflected especially in the paltry Omer offering?


Quality Over Quantity

The answer lies precisely in the paltry value of the Omer measure of barley. Haman realized that if Jewish power were only based on wealth and quantity he could have easily triumphed over them. If the Jews were focused on the value of their offering, Haman could always outspend them. After all, he had at his disposal the riches of the Persian Empire. 

When Haman realized that the Jewish people were preoccupied with an offering, consisting of but one Omer, which symbolized G‑d’s ability to provide all of our needs with a single Omer, he knew that he could not vanquish them. This power of a Divine quantity was a sign that they possessed an infinitely more powerful weapon than Haman’s 10,000 silver talents.

[According to some commentaries, 1 omer is equal to 10 maneh, which in turn equal a half-shekel.  We also know that Haman’s 10,000 silver talents were the equivalent of 30 million shekels (which means they equaled 60 million omer). The ratio of one omer-Half-Shekel to 10,000 talents is thus 60 million to 1! In Jewish law a ratio of 60 to 1 nullifies the 1.]


The Lesson for Today

The lesson for our day and age is that our way to bring Redemption and salvation to the world and to defeat all the modern day Hamans and tyrants is by living the future now!

As we stand on the threshold of the Age of Redemption we can already see the light of its dawning on the horizon. Rather than turning back to see the darkness of night we should look forward to see and live in the light of the future. 

One way of experiencing the future Geulah is to focus now on the intrinsic quality in every detail of Judaism; in every Jew and indeed in every small detail of our lives.

Moshiach, who ushers in the final Redemption, is different from other great leaders in that he already sees the light of Redemption even in the darkness of the last moments of Galus. Moshiach tells us to do the same and open our eyes to see the world in this new light.

Our operating motto for today is “live with Moshiach” and see the inner beauty and value of everything. Cherish every Mitzvah and see the inner goodness in everyone!





Moshiach Matters:  


When Moshiach will come (speedily in our time, Amen), then we shall really long for the days of the exile. Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected working at G‑dly service; then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of Divine service. These days of exile are the days of working on ourselves, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our time, Amen.