Speaking for the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
“וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת… עד ממחרת השבת השביעית תספרו חמשים יום והקרבתם מנחה חדשה לה’. ממושבותיכם תביאו לחם תנופה… ביכורים לה'” (ויקרא כג, טו-יז)
“May the Merciful One bring back the service of the Bait Hamikdash speedily in our days” – with these words we express, every evening of the Omer Count, our yearning for the rebuilding of the Bait Hamikdash in general, and the renewal of the Omer offering in specific. In addition to the Omer offering, brought specifically from the Land of Israel, as we discussed in parshat Vayikra, there is the Two Loaves offering, also brought specifically from the Land of Israel at the culmination of the 50 days from the previous Omer offering. So Rambam teaches us (Tmididin u’Musafin, 8, 2) that from the words “from your settlements” (brought in our title quote) our Sages learned that the “new offering”, i.e. the Two Loaves, is to be brought solely from the Land of Israel, the true settlement of our People. Not only is the Two Loaves offering parallel to the Omer offering in regard to its location of origin, but also in regard to the term “bikurim”, first produce, used for both offerings (we discussed this term in regard to the Omer in parshat Vayikra). How can both offerings, 50 days apart from each other, be considered the “first produce”? Many commentators point at the fact that the Omer offering comes from barley, while the Two Loaves come from wheat. During the 50 day Omer Count we go progressively from the “first produce” of barley, most adequate for animal consumption, to the “first produce” of wheat, the primary human staple. That said, why is the Land of Israel and its first produce so dominant in the theme of these 50 days? Moreover, the same theme of counting 7 weeks till reaching 50 repeats itself in regard to the Shemitah and Jubilee cycle, of course clearly unique to the Land of Israel. So again, what do the numbers 7 and 50 have to do with the Holy Land? The Zohar (in numerous places) teaches us that 7 represents the “lower (natural) land”, while 50 represents the “upper (supernatural) land”. As we have mentioned many times before, it is in the Holy Land that we can receive the Countenance of the Holy Presence. The Zohar teaches us that there are two ways of receiving this Presence. One way is the way of “seven”, to acknowledge God’s Presence in our natural world, while the way of the “fifty” is to acknowledge God’s Presence in the supernatural. This explains why Shavuot, Day of the Giving of the Torah, is on the 50th day of the Omer, since the Torah is considered to be the “blueprint” of this natural world (“God looked at the Torah and created the World” Zohar 2, 161a), or, in other words, super-dates the natural world, and is thus, by essence, supernatural. Based on these concepts, we can understand the deeper meaning of the verse: “And Hebron was built 7 years before Zoan of Egypt” (p. Shlah). “Degel Mahaneh Efraim’s” (on parshat Hayei Sarah) explains that these words allude to the level of Hebron as supernatural super-ceding (“before”) the lower natural world (“seven”) which is spiritually adjacent to the low evil forces alluded to in the words “Zoan of Egypt”. Indeed, it is within Hebron that souls ascend to the Garden of Eden, again emphasizing the supernatural aspect of self that super-cedes the natural body, ascending to supernatural Heaven. It is on this soul-supernatural level that humans are so distinct from animals. Thus, by going from an animal-level offering of barley towards human-level wheat offering, we are going from the natural towards the supernatural. May we merit to experience the prophecy: “As you have left Egypt I will show you wonders”(Micah 7, 15).
Real Stories from the Holy Land #15: “More than a month ago my wife asked me to inquire if there are any private sellers of eggs in Kiryat Arba. I inquired and was told that someone of the name Tor might sell. However, I made no more effort to contact this person (who I didn’t know). This past week I was given a ride from Maarat HaMachpela by someone of the name Tor, who said that his son used to sell eggs. About 40 minutes later, suddenly my wife, after not asking for more than a month, asked: “what about the eggs?”