"You Shall Count Fifty Days"
by L. Jungerman
"`And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Sabbath from the day that you bring the Omer of the wave offering, seven complete Sabbaths shall there be up to the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days' -- It is a mitzva to count the days and a mitzva to count the weeks" (Maseches Rosh Hashonoh 5).
There are two significances to the counting of the Omer and they are expressed first through the counting of the days and second, through the counting of the weeks.
The act of counting indicates a unique value ascribed to each unit in of itself. Things of no importance are not counted but, rather, weighed, comprehensively, in bulk. One relates to them in general. Inventory taking applies only to things of individual value where each item occupies a place.
"Out of His love towards Yisroel, He counts them at every occasion" (Rashi, Parshas Bamidbor). "Something that is enumerated is not overlooked," say Chazal in Beitza 3. This applies halachically to a fruit that is forbidden to eat which falls and is mingled inadvertently with a large amount of fruit that may be eaten. The rule is that it becomes nullified (botul) and is permissible along with the rest. This pertains to the kind of produce that is sold by weight as opposed to number, like sunflower seeds and the like. But a species that is sold by the unit, like watermelon, does not become nullified by the many and remains forbidden even amidst the other fruit.
The reason for this is that nullification by amount is a result of the fact that a single item, one unit that mingled with the majority, loses its personal importance and becomes part of the mass. And all the rules applying to rove, majority, now apply here as well. As for something that is sold by item, even if the original mixes with a large quantity of units that are different, it retains its individuality. This fruit does not become merely one of many, but remains what it originally and truly was.
Each day between Pesach and Shavuos has its unique purpose. In Kav Hayoshor, chapter 92, it is written: "Out of Hashem's love towards Israel, He commanded them to count forty-nine days from the day following [the first Yom Tov] up till the fiftieth -- Shavuos, the Giving of the Torah. The reason explained is that when the Jews were in exile, they became defiled to the depths of forty-nine gates of impurity. Had they remained in Egypt another day, till the fifteenth of Nisan, we and our children and all of our descendants would still be enslaved to Pharaoh. Hashem, in His infinite mercy, took us out to freedom and gave us the Torah after a counting of fifty days. The Jews counted forty- nine days besides the day that the Torah was given, and on each day, we rose a single level up from the forty-nine levels, through the gateways, until we reached the Gate of Understanding."
The counting of the Omer indicates this. These days "count" and they are counted! "For there is counting with everything that is not identical one to the other. Like with the zov/zova who must count seven days before they become purified. The days preceding lead up to the day when they become pure, a day that is different. Here, too, the days of the Omer must differ from one another, must be graduated.
So, granted, the days must be counted, but why the seven weeks, separately? And why aloud? asks the Meshech Chochmah. There is a separate goal in counting the weeks by themselves. It is a culmination, each week gathering up the seven units into one and all of them together into a chain. Rashi determines that "Wherever we find the number shiv'o, it is a separate noun form, not only a number [it is similar to a dozen, here, a seven- numbered unit] but a composite form of the seven together, or as he terms it in French, septienne, a `seven'.
"The Maharal explains, "This is the difference between shiv'o and shiv'as, a seven-unit of... It should have been called shevi'is, a set of seven (like a septuplet), but it is only called thus when they are consecutive and all alike, identical. But if they are two days together coupled with another five, it is not a shevi'is unit (Gur Arye, Shemos 29:30). If so, then the additional counting of weeks couples together the days that were counted, one by one, with a separate Sefira and individual content. It organizes the series into blocs of seven in order to create a continuum and connection between every unit counted up till then, but important individually, with the end goal being a composite "seven weeks that shall be complete."
The significance of this combination is that all the days become a preparation and anticipation for the grand climax of the fiftieth day. "For this is why we do not say shehechiyonu over the commandment of the counting. The anticipation does not cover the days already counted, only the day following the final count. And then we DO say shehechiyonu -- Who has kept us alive and sustained us and made us reach this season. For throughout the days of the Counting, we counted and waited for the great and glorious day. In my opinion, we should interpret the verse `And you shall count for you... seven weeks that shall be complete' that the counting should be coupled with such desire from the very beginning and sustained till the very end, thinking: when will the appointed day of the Giving of the Torah finally arrive! And since you shall be yearning for each day as you count, and waiting for the climactic anniversary fiftieth day, then all the seven weeks will be complete, whole, joined with one another in one linked chain, until they combine to the bloc leading to the following day of the fiftieth. All of the seven weeks will be dedicated to and joined to the number fifty. (Igra deKalla Rosh Hashonoh)