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Parshat Emor (5768)
This week's Torah portion contains the unusual commandment of 'Sfirat haOmer: 'Counting the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot'
It's one of the easiest commandments in the Good Book.
All you have to do is make a blessing (Blessed are you G-d ……who commanded us to count the Omer) and then count the day: ("Today is such-and-such days of the Omer).
But as simple as it is, it contains deep personal meaning. Each of the 49 days corresponds to another aspect of human nature which, according to mystical Judaism, also adds up to 49.
But at first glance this is not understood. First; if the commandment is to count a sum total of 49 days then how can we make a blessing EACH day? Blessings are only made on an entire commandment and here each day is only one 49th of the whole!?
Even worse, if a person missed a day of counting it would make all the previous days' blessings in vain!
Finally, how can saying a few words have a deep effect on our nature? And what effect is supposed to occur?
To understand this here is a story. (The power of Ruach HaKodesh by Uri Auerbach pg 233)
Rabbi Mair of Parmishlian was a great Tzadik and Torah scholar who lived in Poland some 150 years ago. He was a known miracle worker and, like Moses over 3,300 years ago was an expert at alleviating Jewish suffering.
But not always in the way people wanted.
For instance, there was once a poor widow who lived in the city of Parmishlian who, as destitute as she was, made it a point of never receiving charity or gifts from anyone. She worked as a waitress in a local inn and always said "Not to the hands of flesh and blood but from the full hand of G-d."
And G-d helped! Although there were many times she was tempted to overcome her pride and take a donation, she always held back and managed to support her four small children and herself through open miracles.
But things change.
Her oldest daughter reached marriageable age and, to complicate matters, fell deathly ill. Money, large sums of money, would be needed for the dowry and the wedding … and there wouldn't even be a wedding if her daughter was sick… or (G-d forbid) worse. She had to find a doctor soon to heal her daughter; which meant more money! And all she had was a few coins.
With no choice the widow made her way to the house of Rabbi Mair and knocked on the door. After all, she reasoned to herself, if the Torah gave permission to see a doctor, which means that G-d works through doctors, so why not through this Rebbe as well?!
She was led into the Rebbe's room, placed a letter she had written explaining her desperate situation on his desk ma,nd on the letter placed a coin (it was customary to give the Tzadik some money because one must give, at least something, in order to receive).
But the Rabbi pushed the coin back to the widow, read the letter, thought for a minute and told her. "Take the money, buy some oranges, cook them for a long time until they turn into jam and then give it in small doses until everything is better."
A cure! But what about the money? Did this mean that her daughter would be healthy but unmarried? "G-d will help!" She thought to herself… "at least I'm not taking charity!"
She thanked the Rebbe profusely, left his office, dutifully bought the oranges made jam as the Rebbe said and began to spoon-feed her emaciated daughter who was too weak to even lift the spoon herself.
Sure enough! From the first spoonful an improvement occurred and after a few days the girl was on her feet again, completely cured!
True there was still the problem of money but at least she was alive! The money was in G-d's hands. He would surely help!!
Several weeks later a large carriage stopped before the inn where the widow worked, a well dressed man got out, entered and, obviously tired and hungry from the road and sat at a table. She took his order as he lit his pipe and went to the kitchen to prepare it.
But when she returned to his table with his food she was surprised to see him sitting with his head in his hands shaking and weeping bitterly. She placed the food before him but he didn't stop crying and nothing she could do could get him to stop. Until finally she asked him what was wrong.
"My daughter!" he explained wiping his eyes with his palms and trying to calm down. "My beautiful daughter that is dying!" And he began crying again. "Months ago she became sick and stopped eating. Then she said her head hurt. I took her to the best doctors but they all said it was only melancholy. Depression! Now she's too weak to do anything! I don't know what to do!" And he again burst into tears.
Suddenly she remembered the jam! There was still some jam left in the jar! What luck!! But when she told the man he didn't seem to share her joy.
"Orange Jam?! Ahh! It's witchcraft!" He said. "Orange jam doesn't cure anything. I've heard about these Rebbes and I have to say I don't believe it. I only believe in G-d! Orange Jam? Please! Do me a favor… I have enough problems without this."
But the widow refused to give up. She assured him that it was pure Judaism; just as Moses, Elijah and others did miracles so did this Rebbe etc. etc. until he sensed her sincerity and agreed to take the jar to his daughter.
But when he arrived home he found that his daughter… who had been educated with the same outlook as he, had to be persuaded herself. Now it was up to him, of all people, do get her to believe in Tzadikim.
But he did it. In fact he did such a good job that he actually convinced himself as well.
She agreed to taste a small amount and, just as the daughter of the widow, she felt better almost immediately. Before their very eyes a miracle occurred.
When his daughter was feeling better they both returned to the widow with thanks, praises and…. money. Enough for everything she would need for the wedding of this daughter and her other children as well.
Everyone realized that miracles don't always come as easily and directly as we think.
This is the point of counting the Omer. True the complete commandment is to count ALL the 49 days… but the process, every step on the way is also holy and deserves its own blessing.
Just as the healing and financing of the widow's daughter required many steps and brought with it many blessings: the healing of the man's daughter and the belief of everyone involved in the Tzadik.
And that is also the change that occurs in each of us when we 'count' correctly.
Namely, when we realize that every step, every day and, indeed, every moment of our lives is a holy step to the goal of making this world a blessed, healthy and joyous place (through hastening the arrival of Moshiach) then this fills us with blessing, health and joy.
It changes our human, natural, nature and brings the Creator; the King of the Universe, into all our thoughts of past, present and future.
It all depends on us. Just as counting the Omer was a preparation for Shavuot when the Jews received the Torah, so will our good deeds be a preparation to the secrets of the Torah that Moshiach will reveal (see Rashi on Song of Songs 1:2).
Even one more good deed, word or thought can bring....
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