Emor 5783 – Come to Light
My mom always says that you can tell an optimist by the kind of bananas they buy: the green ones! If you’re buying a green banana, it means you believe you’re going to live long enough to see them ripen and eat them.
Rabbi Yisrael Friedman of Rozhin (1796-1850 Ukraine) says the same thing about those who count the omer: “Tomorrow is a nickname for faith.”
In this week’s parsha, Emor, we read the instructions for counting the omer:
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמַּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת־עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה׃ עַד מִמַּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם׃
And You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering, you shall count off seven complete weeks. You must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days… (Lev. 23:15-16)
The phrasing of the first three words of this instruction is of particular interest to Rav Yisrael.
וּסְפַרְתֶּם usfartem – Rather than reading this literally as “you shall count,” Rav Yirael understands it to be from the word סַפִּיר sapir, sapphire – i.e. one should clean and purify their thoughts and actions like a shimmering sapphire.
לָכֶם lachem – to you. This is inner work you should be doing – to you and for you.
מִמַּחֳרַת mimachorat – tomorrow. Why is tomorrow a nickname for faith? Because a person has no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow, or if there will even be a tomorrow!
A person who believes that there will be a tomorrow and that tomorrow matters will do this work of cleaning and purifying today. Because if today is the only thing that matters, what’s the point of improving and striving to be a better version of ourselves? The work of tomorrow must take place today.
This is what we hope for at the close of Shabbat as well. This song, Come to Light, is a love song to Shabbat. It is a moment of anticipation, of saying goodbye to the beauty that was today and looking forward into tomorrow and the week to come.
As we count the omer, we are supposed to think of each day as a step on the ladder of holiness, each day a step closer to receiving the Torah. Yesterday we passed the halfway mark. Today the work of tomorrow begins. What do you need to do in order to find and be the best version of yourself tomorrow?