Why the Second Day? by Shlomo Yaros


There was a famous dispute between Chazal and the Tzedukim regarding the starting point of Sfirat HaOmer.  The Torah states that we should start counting the Omer “Mimachorat Hashabbat.  The Tzedukim take this Pasuk literally and believe that “Mimacharat Hashabbat” means the day after Shabbat; in other words, every year we start counting the Omer on Sunday.  Chazal on the other hand, understand “Shabbat to mean Yom Tov- more specifically, the first day of Pesach. Thus, Chazal believe that we start counting the Omer on the second day of Pesach. 

A prominent opinion as to the purpose of Sfirat HaOmer is to connect Pesach, which symbolizes Bnai Yisrael’s freedom from Egypt, to the culmination of that freedom, Shavuot, when Bnai Yisrael received the Torah.  Since the Sfira doesn’t represent this connection between Pesach and Shavuot, why do we not start counting from the beginning of Pesach, with the beginning of the redemption, instead of waitng till the next day?  The Sefer Hachinuch answers that the first day of Pesach is in its own category because it was such an extraordinary miracle that the Jews attained their freedom after 210 years of slavery.  Therefore, the joy of the first day of Pesach cannot be joined with the other joy of the continuation of the redemption (as symbolized by the counting of the Sfira), and therefore, we start counting the Omer on the second day of Pesach.             

The Or HaChayim explains differently.  He believes that we were only permitted to start counting in a completely pure environment. Therefore, since we originally left Egypt, a very impure place, on the first day of Pesach, we are not permitted to count the Sfira that day. We may add to this and say that since it is preferable to count the Omer at night, as clearly proven by the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling that the Berachah on the counting is only recited at night, we had to have been free on the night of the first day of Pesach in order for us to count on that day.  Since we were still in the clutches of the Egyptians on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan, the first night of Pesach, we only start counting the Sfira on the first day completely out of our freedom- the second day of Pesach.

This week’s Parsha however, shows that at least on an ideal level, the environment for the mitzvah of Sfira goes beyond just the isuue of purity.  The Torah in Perek 23 Pasuk 10 states that when Bnai Yisrael reach Eretz Yisrael, there will be a requirement to cut the first of the grain and bring it to the Kohen.  This requirement must be fulfilled on the second night of Pesach, and will be signified by the bringing of a Korban made of barley in the Beit Hamikdash.  This Korban signifies the beginning of the fifty days of the Omer up to Shavuot.  Since the Torah clearly states that this Korban could only be brought in Eretz Yisrael, it is clear that the ideal performance of the Mitzvah of Sfirat HaOmer can only be done in Eretz Yisrael.  May we be Zocheh to see many more Jews in Eretz Yisrael in the near future, and may Hashem privilege us with the coming of Mashiach allowing us to perform Mitzvah of Sfirat HaOmer in the most ideal fashion.             

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