Emor - The Visible and Invisible Gifts from Hashem

“Our Father, our King! For the sake of our forefathers who trusted in You, and whom You taught statutes of life, so too, be gracious to us and teach us.” (Birchot Kriat Shma, Ahava Rabba)

Trust is critical to all relationships. Trust in G-d is a key prerequisite to our engagement with Torah learning and observance. This is made clear in the classic Talmudic story (Shabbos 88a-b) in which Rava was confronted by a Saducee who derided the Jewish people’s “hasty” acceptance of the Torah, putting our mouths before our ears, committing to action – naaseh – before hearing the details – nishma. Rava responded by proudly affirming the trust in G-d that informed how we as a nation unconditionally accepted whatever Hashem would ask of us. “We proceeded with G-d with a trusting heart, characteristic of those who act with love, relying on Him not to burden us with something we could not bear (Rashi to Shabbos 88b).”

It is therefore understood why the Exodus was the first step towards Sinai and our embrace of Torah (Shemos 3:12) and it was therefore invoked in Hashem’s proposal to us (Shemos 19:3-5). “You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on the wings of eagles and brought you to Me.” That miraculous event was a trust builder, demonstrating G-d’s love of and commitment to the Jewish people, enabling our unconditional acceptance of His Torah.

It may also be the basis for our Parsha introducing the counting of ‘the Omer’ as the way we move towards Sinai (Vayikra 23:9-16). ‘The Omer’ was an omer-sized barley flour offering made on the second day of Pesach from the new season’s harvest, acknowledging G-d’s daily gifts to us. The midrash (Vayikra Rabba 28:2) notes that this offering was known by its size to associate it with the daily gift of an omer of manna that sustained us daily in the desert (Shemos 16:16-18). “Rav Berechya taught, “G-d said to Moshe, tell the Jewish people that I used to give an omer of the manna daily to each one of them. Now that they are giving me the omer, I receive only one omer of barley from all of them together.” While our sustenance today grows from the earth, we are compelled to recognize that its true source is no different than the manna that fell directly from the heavens.

This is part of the trust-building exercise that brought us to Sinai. We left Egypt and traveled into the arid desert carrying only the matzoh, the meichla d’mhemnusa, the foodstuff of faith (see Zohar II 183b). That matzoh was the symbol of our faith and it was infused with the heavenly taste of the manna (Kiddushin 38a). Thirty days later, on the fifteenth of Iyar, we ran out of matzoh and G-d informed us that the next day we would begin to receive the manna bread from the heavens (Shemos 16:1, 16:4). Those days of visible divine love and support built our faith and enabled us to unconditionally accept the Torah, “our forefathers who trusted in You and whom You taught statutes of life,” such that when we reentered the earthly sphere in Israel with the barley harvest, we offered the omer to remind ourselves that G-d’s continued faithfulness remains critical to our ongoing sustenance. We count the omer, building that awareness further, remembering G-d’s heavenly bread of faith through his earthly gifts. 

Now, as then, we must build our faith in G-d to arrive at Sinai. Counting the omer allows us to consider G-d’s hidden role in all that we have now by recalling His visible role in bringing us the omer of manna, sustaining us and building the trust in Him essential to our embracing His Torah.