Sign In Forgot Password

Parsha Emor

05/16/2019 10:01:29 PM


This week’s Parsha contains the mitzvah that currently engages us, the mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer.  The word Sefira is rooted in the Shoresh of Samech, Pheh, Reish, and while it is loosely translated as counting, its precise definition remains somewhat elusive.  What is the variance between the actions of counting and saying?  Moreover, we find contexts where counting connotes a mental exercise, such as the imperative of “V’safra La”- that a Nidda woman must “count” seven clean days by mentally keeping track of the purity of the days, and other contexts where counting implies a verbal declaration, such as Sefiras Hamoer and the counting of the Yovel years where there is a specific rhetoric required to fulfill the needs of the “counting.”  How did it come to be that a story is known as a “Sippur,” another word sharing the same root, as found in the phrase of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim?  In further analysis of the Shoresh of counting, we see that the letters Samech, Pheh, and Reish are ironically the exact letters that form the word “Sefer”- a book!     

The Meshech Chochma explains that the delineation of counting is in how it sets details and fragments apart to make them stand on their own.  When the Nidda counts seven days, she is searching to find that the days are different and set apart on their own in regards to purity.  A “story” is the makeup of a chain of events, the totality of many separate details that connected together sequentially to form the bigger “story.”  To relate that story is, therefore, to recount what occurred- to identify each detail and fraction on  its own to see how it became part of a greater story.  A “Sefer” similarly shares this perspective of being a cumulative and amassed collection of many disparate thoughts and ideas that are woven together in fuller form to become a book.  A sefer, much like a sippur, is really the embodiment of many “counts” that somehow came together.  To count money is to calculate a total sum by the process of identifying each bill on its own to see how it connects with others around it.

The Nidda’s counting does not need to express anything verbally, because by her checking and noticing the purity of the day, the day becomes “counted” automatically now as it stands apart as a day of purity.  In contrast, the days of Sefira have no physical differences to them to be noticed and counted by recognition, and as such, the meaning of their “counting” takes on a different dimension.  Counting of the Sefira is a proactive experience that involves a person taking an ordinary day and setting it apart through their own words and actions.  Whereas the Nidda’s count is passive as she counts her days by recognizing their physical differences, the Omer’s count can only be actualized by creating the difference in the days.  Sefira is a time of growth, the time between Emancipation and Self-Actualization, of Pesach and Shavuos, and the mitzvah of Sefira is to make this time progressively different.  Today is one and today is two is our proactive declaration of growth and of connecting to the uplifting process the time affords.  Much like a literal story, which is the sum of many details that build upon another, Sefira is our own story that we write ourselves, adding another chapter each day that builds upon what came previously.  Growth is hardly a programmed or regimented concept, and is definitely not palpable from day to day.  The key is not to “count” the results of our growth, but rather to celebrate the process itself in finding the details that make us grow and to set them apart as the dots that we are connecting in striving to become better people by the time of Shavuos.   

Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784