Omer: The New Crop
On the second day of Pesach, there was a special meal-offering of barley
brought to the Temple taken from the freshly-cut first harvest of the
year. This was called the Omer (Vayikra 23:9-14).
This nondescript offering (its name "Omer" was so-called after the exact
measure to this meal-offering), was highly significant insofar as this
offering was the precursor to eating any grain produce of the new crop in
the Land of Israel.
Historically, the first time this offering was brought was in the
aftermath of Moshe's death upon the Children of Israel entering the Holy
Land. Their earlier sustenance from heaven, in the form of the miraculous
Mon, manna, lasted up and until the day after which Yehoshua organized the
first Omer offering. (See Yehoshua 5:12).
For close to 40 years in the wilderness, each Jew had been the recipient
of a daily quota of Mon, to the amount of one Omer measure per head
(Shemos 16:16). Now, explains the Midrash, the chosen nation's entry into
their homeland saw them instructed to reciprocate. They were to present G-
d with a communal offering of one Omer of barley (Vayikra Rabbah 28:3).
The Omer of the Mon and Omer offering are linked because they carry the
Whether our Omer of food miraculously descended from the heaven straight
to our doorsteps or whether it was gained through the toil of the earth is
inconsequential. What was vital was to note how all prosperity and success
emanates from the same divine source.
It makes no difference if the arrival of our food is miraculous or
natural. The bottom line and timeless teaching is for a Jew to always see
G-d's Hand manifest in all of his affairs. And it is the Omer offering,
taken from the natural agricultural produce of the earth, which celebrates
the continuity of divine providence at all times. This was especially the
case in the dramatic transfer from the Israelites' food source in the
wilderness and that of the Holy Land.
The ability to merit G-d's blessing and His abundance hinges upon man's
ability to become a recipient of His goodness. In answer to the question
if the world remains within G-d's remit or if the "Earth was given to man"
(Tehillim 115:16), the Talmud notes that both are true. The distinction
lies "before" and "after" the recitation of a Bracha, blessing. To derive
pleasure without conceding its holy Source is likened to a thief robbing
divine property. Only after making a benediction to declare its heavenly
origins can man acquire it for himself (Berachos 35a).
Thus, the Omer offering is comparable to a Bracha preceding enjoyment of
this world's crops as it, too, is the prerequisite to anyone partaking of
the new crop and produce in the fields.
That the Omer offering attests to also seeing G-d in the covert natural
setting explains how Haman's downfall was specifically on 16 th day of
Nissan the day the Omer offering was brought (Megillah 16a). This is not
a coincidence. Haman himself admitted to Mordechai's students that the
Omer negated his 10,000 pieces of silver presented to Achashverosh to kill
the Jews (Vayikra Rabbah 28:6). Seeing G-d operating using the veil of
nature is the major theme of the Purim story. It is something like the
Omer that is the weaponry to defeat the Amalekite ideology that
audaciously challenges divine providence within creation (Michtav
MiEliyahu, 2 p.25).
It is essential that in all our activities in the pursuit of a livelihood,
we take the symbolism of the Omer offering to heart. Prior to enjoying and
partaking of the good, we acquire this only after we proclaim G-d as the
Source of our continuous blessing and success.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene and Torah.org.