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How does the counting of the Omer connect Passover and Shavuot?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

The holiday of Shavuot is a direct extension of Passover. In fact, technically Shavuot doesn’t have a fixed date of the month—it is the 50th day after the offering of the Omer sacrifice on the 2nd day of Passover.

[Today, with our perpetual calendar, Shavuot always falls out on the 6th of Sivan. However, when the months were determined by witnesses who saw the crescent new-moon, the holiday of Shavuot fluctuated, and could have been on the 5th, 6th, or 7th of Sivan. (See How does the Jewish calendar work?)]

The stated purpose of the Exodus (Passover) was to receive the Torah (Shavuot): “When you [Moses] take the people out of Egypt, you will worship G-d on this mountain”1. When G-d revealed Himself at the stroke of midnight to smite the Egyptian firstborn and redeem the Jews, the Jews were overwhelmed and inspired by this intense experience. They literally ran out of Egypt, leaving behind generations of cruel bondage and a lifestyle of immorality which they had adopted from their sinful taskmasters.

inspiration is merely a reaction to an external circumstance or event, and can quickly wear off when the inspiring event fades
But they were not yet ready to receive the Torah. Being inspired is very nice, but the inspired person hasn’t really changed; inspiration is merely a reaction to an external circumstance or event, and can quickly wear off when the inspiring event fades in time and fades from memory.

The Jews had to spend seven weeks working on their character, refining themselves in preparation for receiving the Torah. According to Kabbalah, the person’s soul possesses seven primary character traits, and one week was devoted to each of these traits.

Torah and its messages are timeless. Still today, the Omer period is a time for soul-searching; a time to work on being kind, gentle, and caring, and prepare for receiving the Torah—once again—on the holiday of Shavuot.

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 3:12

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