From Political Freedom to Spiritual Freedom
by HaRav Dov Begun, Rosh Yeshiva, Machon Meir
The counting of the Omer comes between two (flour) Minchah offerings; the barley offering brought on the second day of Pesach, and the wheat offering brought on Shavuot. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook explains that these two offerings hint to us about man’s gradual spiritual improvement. The Rabbis viewed barley as an animal food, alluding to man on an animal level. In contrast, they viewed wheat as a food for human beings, alluding to the highest spiritual level man has ever achieved, that of the Revelation of God at Sinai. When an infant is born, we ask how much he weighs. By the time he comes under the wedding chupah, we have other questions. We want to know if he is a good person with good traits and good deeds. It is the same during the counting of the Omer. At the start of Pesach we are preoccupied with the Jews’ material and physical survival, and at the end, when we get to Shavuot, we are more concerned with the spiritual level of the individual Jew and the Jewish People. Our teachers explain beautifully the words we recite in our prayers before the Shema, “Bring us to our land with heads held high [komemiyut]” The word “komemiyut” (which appears in Leviticus 26:13) is a double form of the Hebrew word “koma” – a level or stage. Hence we pray for redemption in two stages or komot (Bava Batra 75a). In the first stage, we are occupied with the physical construction of a political and material state, but we are advancing on to the next stage, involving the spiritual status of the nation, similar to the Revelation at Sinai. In our day, we have begun to see the first stage of Israel’s Redemption through the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of the State of Israel. The second stage is the spiritual stage, the flourishing of Torah and the revelation of the benevolent, illuminating soul of the Jewish People in the Land. Through achievement of this political and spiritual freedom together, with the People of Israel living in the Land of Israel, may we merit to see all mankind enjoying material plenty and spiritual light and everything that is good, as indeed God promised Abraham: “Go away from your land . . . to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. . . . You shall become a blessing. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1–3).