In this week’s Parsha we have the Mitzva of ספירת העומר. In 23:15 the Torah says וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עמר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה, “And you shall count from the day after Shabbat (which the Talmud explains is the second night of Pesach) from the day of the waving of the Omer sacrifice, seven full weeks it shall be.” We see that the Mitzva of ספירת העומר is a commandment from the Torah. Nowadays, since we no longer have the Bait Hamikdash, there is מחלקת ראשונים about the status of this Mitzva. The Rambam holds that even though there is no קרבן עומר the Mitzva of ספירת העומר is still a מצוה דאורייתא, perhaps because there is another aspect to this Mitzva: counting the days until קבלת התורה, which took place on the holiday of Shavuot. Since we can still fulfill that aspect of ספירת העומר it remains a מצוה מדארייתא even in the absence of the קרבן עומר. The בעלי תוספות and most Rishonim argue that ספירת העומר is only a.מצוה דרבנן What would be a practical difference between the opinion of the Rambam and the opinion of the בעלי תוספת? The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim) writes that by a מצוה דאורייתא we hold מצות צריכות כוונה, that intent is required in order to perform the Mitzva. By a מצוה מדרבנן the Magen Avraham (60:3) rules that מצוות אינן צריכות כוונה, that one fulfills a Mitzva Derabbanan even without intent to fulfill the Mitzva. Therefore on the third night of the Omer if it is after dark and you have not counted yet and someone asks you what night of the Omer it is, you should respond last night was the second night of the Omer. Why can’t you say that tonight is the third? Since we rule in accordance with the בעלי תוספות that ספירת העומר nowadays is only מדרבנן and by a מצוה מדרבנן we ruleמצות אינן צריכות כוונה one is considered to have already counted and he would not be able to recite a Beracha when counting the third night.
What is the purpose of the Mitzva of ספירת העומר? The Sefer Hachinuch writes (Mitzva 306) that the Torah is the root of the Jewish people and it is because of the Torah that Hashem created the heaven and earth. The reason Hashem took us out of Egypt was in order for us to accept the Torah at Mount Sinai and fulfill the Torah. Therefore just as we count to any great day in our lives, so too, we count to קבלת התורה. The Sefer Hachinuch asks why do we count how many days have passed instead of how many days remain? He answers that beginning by saying that there are still forty-nine days left until קבלת התורה will show that there is still a long time left before קבלת התורה and we do not want to do that. He asks, “After the midway point why don’t we switch to how many days are left until קבלת התורה?” He answers, “When the חכמים made a format for Berachot they do not change it midstream.”
Rav Moshe Feinstein זצ"ל made a very interesting observation about the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. He asks, “Why by every other holiday does the Torah give the exact month and day?” He answers, “if the Torah gave an exact date people might think that we only have to accept the Torah on that date. Since the Torah does not record a date we realize that we must strive to accept the Torah anew every day of the year.”
After counting the עומר each night we recite, “May Hashem return for us the service of the Bait Hamikdash in its place, speedily in our days, Amen.” The בעלי תוספות in מסכת מגילה ask why specifically by this Mitzva do we pray for the rebuilding of the Bait Hamikdash and not by other Mitzvot such as Shofar and Lulav. They answer that today Shofar and Lulav are fulfilled on the same level that they were when the Bait Hamikdash stood but today the Mitzva of Sefirat HaOmer is only a Mitzva Derabbanan, and when the Bait Hamikdash will be rebuilt, it will become a Mitzva Deoraita once again. Therefore, specifically by this Mitzva we pray for the restoration of the Bait Hamikdash to be. During this period of Sefirat HaOmer the Gemara (Yevamot 62b) teaches us that we must mourn for the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died in the plague because לא נהגו כבוד זה לזה, they did not show proper respect to one another. The Gemara (Yoma 9b) teaches us that the reason the second Bait Hamikdash was destroyed was because of Sinat Chinam, people hated each other for no reason. We must strive to perform Ahavat Chinam. As Rav Kook זצ"ל said, “I want people to say about me that I love other Jews for no other reason than they are Jewish.”
May we learn this lesson of showing proper respect to other Jews and may Hashem accept our prayers this year and hopefully we will have the Bait Hamikdash by Shavuot so we will be Zocheh to bring the Korban Shtai Halechem properly.