Counting the Omer
By Nachum Mohl
If we define Passover as a time of transition, then the period known as the Omer is a continuation and extension of this transition. Passover, the time of our redemption, going from slavery to freedom, is definitely a time of transition. The time of the Omer is a continuation of transition the period of time in which the Jews who had just left Egypt came to Mount Sinai to receive G-d's most precious gift, the Holy Torah.
We can divide this period into three separate and distinct periods: Passover, Omer, and Shavuot. Each one has its specific impact and importance on our national and spiritual psyche. Passover is the time of liberation from physical bondage. Shavuot is the time of liberation from our mental limitations. The Omer period enables this transition from the physical to the intellectual, from the material to the spiritual, and from the profane to the holy.
Each of these three steps were and are necessary to be enabled to reach a higher and loftier level of being than existed before.
First and foremost, the highest level is to be a spiritual person transcending the material and merging with the spiritual. To achieve an oneness with G-d; it is necessary to be capable of determining ones physical and material state. One has to have the ability to negative the harmful influence of the physical mundane world on his being. As slaves, we were not capable or abe to contemplate the greatness of G-d. The forced working conditions brought us to a deteriorated and dilapidated spiritual state. By forcing the Jews to focus on the material and bodily side of life, the internal spiritual man all but collapsed. In order to revive that unique aspect of the Jew, the spirituality and closeness to G-d, it was necessary to first be released from worry about the material and physical. That was Passover.
The ultimate, of course, is the assimilation of G-d's Torah into our essential being. This is the uplifting of the physical into the divine. The Torah being the ultimate in revelation of G-dliness in the physical can only be fathomed by those who have the ability to contemplate the unlimited depth of G-d and his Torah. This is the ultimate goal of all mankind to see G-dliness in this world.
However in order to come to such a lofty level of spiritual perception, work is required in two different planes. One is to reduce the body's insistence that the physical is the absolute reality, the other is to enhance the G-dly soul's position in the body as the dominate preceptor of reality. This is the work that takes place during the Omer period.
The counting of the Omer is the counting of 49 days or seven weeks. The mystics and Chassidic masters tell us that during this time a tikun, a repair, must be made by each individual in order to bring himself to a state of purity that will enable him to receive the Torah in its pure state.
The mystics explain that when G-d first created the world, these same various forces would not align with and include each other. This caused the first primordial world to self destruct. These powers are the same which are found in each person. Since there are seven prime midot, or essential character traits, in a person which need to work together in harmony in order to bring the person to a greater and more spiritual level.
The period of time did not just exist then, during the exile from Egypt. The supernal powers that existed then exist also now. The opportunities for change and spiritual advancement still apply now. We, during this period, are transitioning from the physical, where everything is separate to the divine, were the various spiritual powers can combine and co-exist. It is this period to which we owe our ability to grow spiritually and gain a lofty understanding of the Torah.
from the May 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine