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Preparation and Elevation

by Yehoshua Metzinger


Regarding the Counting of the Omer, the Torah says, "You will count from the next day (i.e. after Pesach) which is Shabbat." We are to understand that from the first day of bringing the Omer, there are seven Shabbats that comprise the Omer period. The word "usfartem" ("and you shall count") also means "clarity" and is also related to the word "sefirot".

Through these relationships, we can see that through counting the Omer, the supernal sefirot, or aspects of G-dliness, are given clarity, since it is during this time that they are revealed in the lower worlds. From the time of Pesach, or the Exodus, we must count the Omer in order to reveal G-dliness in the world and to refine ourselves to the extent that we can receive the Torah on Shavuot.

In the book of the Prophet Ezekiel, there is a description of various animals, or chayot, of G-d's "chariot". The Hebrew word for animal, "chayot", also means "vitality", and the animals are described as running back and forth. The Alter Rebbe of Chabad explains that, in Kabbala, this image represents the G-dly vitality that runs back and forth in and out of all the realms of Creation. This motion includes two phases: razo, which is the "running out" or the longing of creatures to be included within the infinite light, and shov, which is the return to the lower worlds as the result of awe and fear experienced during Supreme revelation.

On Shavuot, we return to our places and become humble…

Pesach is characterized by the aspect of razo, because the Jewish People were going beyond their boundaries and leaving Egypt in great haste. On Shavuot, we return to our places and become humble as the result of receiving the Torah as it was received on Sinai; this is the aspect of shov.

In our service to G-d, we experience razo as we meditate during the Morning Prayer service from the Psukei D'zimra (Verses of Song) to the Shema. We are going past the boundary that conceals G-d from us, and as we progress to a higher level, we can meditate on how the countless angels tremble before the throne of G-d. They serve him with total dedication and are nullified to His essence, even though they comprehend only a ray of it. G-d, however, is omniscient and unlimited. It is only through razo, breaking the boundaries in our thinking, that we are able to reach a level where we can begin to achieve an understanding of G-d's unity and a love of G-d through meditation and prayer.

Sometimes, one may feel unable to awaken his natural love for G-d, because he is overly preoccupied with worldly matters; the way to overcome this insensitivity is to awaken one's mercy for his own soul, which is locked in exile within the body. The ascension to this understanding and the flight from the exile of the material world are aspects of razo.

We first elevate the food of the animal and, finally, the animal soul itself…

The exodus from Egypt and the concept of "razo" reflect the release of the G-dly soul from the confines of the animal soul which wants to remain in the physical world and gratify its selfish desires. To receive the Torah on Shavuot, the animal soul must first be tamed and humbled; this is achieved through the Counting of the Omer, which begins during the wheat harvest. The significance of the wheat is that it is food for animals, and it provides the animal soul with its vitality. By bringing the sacrifice of the Omer, we first elevate the food of the animal and, finally, the animal soul itself.

The Omer period consists of seven complete Shabbats, and each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middot, respectively: chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod and malchut. Just as there is a week devoted to each of the middot, each day of the week is devoted to a different sefira within that particular midda. For example, the midda of the first week is chesed; the first day is characterized by chesed within chesed, which is the trait of loving G-d "with all your heart". The second day is devoted to gevura within chesed, an aspect of gevura that doesn't exhibit only its own quality, but rather a gevura that exists for the sake of chesed; for example, someone hates the enemies of his friend because of the love for his friend, and not for an independent reason.

Similarly, the other sefirot of the week are traits that are motivated by chesed. Tiferet, on the third day, is the quality through which one glorifies G-d. With netzach can achieve great victories for the sake of G-d. Hod can lead one to fight against obstacles to G-dliness. Through yesod, one can become more connected with G-d and reject irrelevant pursuits. Malchut, the aspect of speech, can give one the words to express love for G-d and to teach others to how to come closer to G-d. Through counting the Omer and meditating on the sefirot for each day of the week, the middot are refined, and the animal soul is elevated in preparation for receiving the Torah.

Also, through the counting of the Omer we bring the encompassing light into this world, because we transform the animal soul into a vessel for this light when we count the Omer. Through this process, we begin to experience razo as coming from below and moving to the higher realms. This is different from the razo that occurs during the revelation on Pesach, when the Supreme Chochma comes down to the souls and brings them to a level where they are able to effect razo from below. Once this level is achieved, the souls merit the Torah.
From Pesach to Shavuot our souls undergo three preparations for receiving the Torah. During the revelation on Pesach, we break through our spiritual boundaries and receive energy to purify ourselves. Through the Counting of the Omer, we concentrate on refining our characters and on elevating coarse physicality into holy vitality. On Shavuot, we are able to be humble before the Torah, the words of G-d.


[Adapted from Likutei Torah by Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Chabad and Sefer Mamaarim by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.]



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