Chapter I

וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את
עומר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימות תהיינה

"You shall count for yourselves from the day following the day of rest [lit. Shabbos], from the day on which you bring the Omer as a wave-offering; [the counting] shall be for seven full weeks."1

We must understand the meaning of the term "for yourselves."

We find that the same term is used in conjunction with the mitzvah of esrog and lulav, where the verse states:2 "And you shall take for yourselves." The meaning there is that we should take [the esrog and lulav] from that which belongs to us, and not from that which was stolen.3

Concerning the Yom Tov of Shemini Atzeres, too, we find written:4 "The eighth day shall be a day of convocation for you." Here the verse is telling us5 that the holiday and the sacrificial offerings of Shemini Atzeres pertain only to the Jewish people. During the first seven days of Sukkos, sacrificial offerings were brought on behalf of all mankind. On Shemini Atzeres, however, the offerings were specifically for the Jewish people.6 The Midrash offers the following parable:7 "A king made a feast to which he invited all his subjects. The feast lasted seven days. At the conclusion of the seven-day period he said to his best friend: 'Now that we have fulfilled our obligation to all our subjects, you and I shall celebrate together.' This then is the meaning of the term "for you" as it applies to Shemini Atzeres: Shemini Atzeres is solely for the Jews.

But what is meant by the term "for yourselves" regarding the counting of the Omer? How can the mitzvah of counting the Omer possibly be performed in a manner that is not "for yourselves"?

With regard to the mitzvah of lulav and esrog, the Torah must remind us that the plants must belong to the individual. Concerning Shemini Atzeres too, the term "for you" teaches that the sacrificial offerings of that day are different than those of the previous days. Since there is a possibility that these mitzvos can be performed in a manner that is not "for yourselves," and thus not in accordance with G‑d's desire, it is necessary for the Torah to state "for yourselves." However, regarding the mitzvah of counting the Omer, inasmuch as it is impossible to perform the mitzvah at all without it being "for yourselves" (for to observe this mitzvah it is necessary to count the days), what does the Torah mean by the term "for yourselves"?

Clearly then, just as the term "for yourselves" with regard to esrog, lulav and Shemini Atzeres clarifies the manner of performance, here too, the term "for yourselves" indicates the proper manner of performance. The Gemara8 interprets the term to mean that the count must be "to each and every individual," i.e., every Jew must personally count. In this regard, the mitzvah of counting the Omer differs from that of counting the years of Shemitah and Yovel, (the Sabbatical and Jubilee years).9 There the verse states:10 You [in the singular] shall count seven Shabbosos of seven years." Therefore, it was incumbent upon the court to count these years.11 However, with regard to the counting of the Omer, each individual Jew is commanded to count.

We must also understand the meaning of the words, "From the day following the Shabbos." What connection does Shabbos have to counting the Omer? Indeed, the term Shabbos as used here actually refers to Yom Tov ,12 which is similar to Shabbos in that they both are days of rest. We must also understand why it is that regarding the Omer offering, the term "waving" is used. So germane is "waving" that the Omer itself is deemed a "wave-offering." Also, what is the meaning of "seven full weeks"? Surely, when seven weeks are counted, they are "full." Why does the Torah have to state explicitly that the weeks must be "full"?

In summary: Regarding the mitzvah of esrog and lulav, the phrase "for yourselves" means "from that which belongs to you." The term is also explained as it applies to Shemini Atzeres and its accompanying offerings. But regarding the counting of the Omer, how it is possible to count without it being "for yourselves," and what is the relationship between Shabbos and the counting? What is meant by calling the Omer a "wave-offering"? And finally, what is the meaning of "they should be full" regarding the seven weeks?

Chapter II

Let us understand the counting of the Omer in terms of man's spiritual service.

The Omer offering was brought from barley,13 one of the five species of grain. Barley differs from wheat in that wheat is used for human consumption while barley is used for animal feed.14 ,15 The Omer was prepared in a way16 such that each aspect of its service involved a triad: three sah [a large dry measure] of moist grain17 were gathered in three separate bins. The grain was pounded and then singed in a special vessel so that the fire would surround and singe all the grain evenly. It was then sifted 13 times. From all the grain, only one isoron [a small dry measure] of truly fine grain was used for the actual offering.

[In terms of man's spiritual service, this offering signifies the refining and elevating of the animal within man.] Every human being possesses a human side and an animal side. Spiritually, the human aspect refers to the G‑dly soul, which is mainly intellectual, with its emotions being governed by intellect. The animal within man refers to the natural soul, which is mainly emotive,18 its intellect serving to fulfill its longings and desires.

The Omer offering involved cutting, singeing and then milling the kernels of animal grain. After the three sah of flour were sifted through 13 sieves, the isoron of flour would be truly pure and fit for an offering to G‑d. After the offering was brought, the seven-week sefirah count began.

Each week involves the counting of only one sefirah [one of the seven emotional attributes], but a different aspect of that sefirah is counted on each day of the week, so that the totality of each sefirah19 is counted. During the first week, for example, all seven sub-sefiros found in the sefirah of chesed are counted, while during the second week the seven sub-sefiros within the sefirah of gevurah are counted. Thus, in the course of seven weeks, all the sefiros each composed of seven aspects are enumerated.

This matter will be understood by drawing an analogy to the soul powers and the emotions of the heart. The first emotional attribute is that of chesed, or kindness. Chesed is love. This love brings about the act of kindness, as the verse states:20 "An eternal love have I for you, therefore I have showered upon you kindness [chesed]."

"Chesed within chesed" refers to the revealed love emanating from one's inner intrinsic love, such as the love of a father for his child. Though the intrinsic love exists in any case, and nothing novel is achieved by its revelation, when this love is plain for all to see, it is called "chesed within chesed." "Gevurah, or severity, within chesed," is achieved when the attribute of chesed clothes itself in a garment which is its antithesis. Chesed is love and gevurah is enmity. "Gevurah within chesed" is the enmity which results from chesed, an example being the animosity felt towards the enemy of one's friend.

[The third attribute is that of tiferes, beauty and/or mercy.] Tiferes refers to spiritual beauty [which comes about by combining already existing attributes]. For example, a picture drawn with several colors is more beautiful than one drawn only in black. Tiferes is thus a combination of chesed and gevurah. The manner in which one acts toward an individual unworthy of being treated with chesed but with whom one is reluctant out of a sense of mercy to act with gevurah, reflects the attribute of tiferes. "Tiferes within chesed" is the beauty of chesed: utilizing chesed only toward spiritually fruitful ends such as tzedakah, spreading Torah knowledge and the like. Such conduct "adorns [tiferes] the doer."21

"Netzach within chesed" is the proper fulfillment of chesed under any and all circumstances; the person will allow nothing to stand in the way of his acting with chesed.

"Hod within chesed" is experienced when one's love for a friend is so great that he endangers his own life to save his.

"Yesod within chesed" is the strong bond between lover and beloved.

"Malchus within chesed" finds expression as the lover speaks words of love to his beloved.

All these manifestations combine to make the attribute of chesed complete. The same is true for the six other emotive attributes: they find completion through the seven sub-attributes contained within each of them.

In summary: The Omer was made from three sah of moist barley that had been dried by fire, after which only one isoron was taken and sifted through 13 sieves. After the offering was brought, one must count the seven attributes during seven weeks, each attribute being counted in its complete form. For example, chesed is love. " Chesed within chesed" is revealed love. " Gevurah within chesed" involves hating the enemy of one's beloved. " Tiferes within chesed" is chesed utilized to strengthen spirituality. " Netzach within chesed" involves not being fazed by obstacles. " Hod within chesed" is to do battle in order to save one's beloved. " Yesod within chesed" is the bond of lover to beloved. " Malchus within chesed" is words of love.

Chapter III

All the above is in regard to human character traits. Man possesses intellect and emotion. Though animals too have intellect and emotions, they differ markedly from man's in two crucial aspects:

a) Man is primarily intellectual and his emotions are governed by his intellect, whereas animals are primarily emotional and their intellect is limited to matters connected to emotion.

b) The intellect and emotions of animals are strictly instinctive. The Jew differs from the rest of humanity in that his intellectual and emotive powers are not only rational, but G‑dly. G‑dly intellect and emotion are imbued with a spiritual force that enables them via the rational intellect and emotion to affect man's instinctive intellect and emotion, these being the intellect and emotion of the animal soul and yetzer hora (the animal soul being intellect and the yetzer hora emotion).

Chesed [as demonstrated by the animal soul and yetzer hora] is love of material and corporeal matters.

For the animal soul and the yetzer hora , "chesed within chesed" is the enthusiasm and delight may Heaven protect us derived from gross physical and material matters.

"Gevurah within chesed" is the hatred felt toward those who observe Torah and mitzvos.

"Tiferes within chesed" is expressed when "the wicked boasts of his heart's desire."22

"Netzach within chesed" is the attribute of not only sinning personally but vigorously leading others astray,23 allowing nothing to stand in the way of this goal.

One displaying the attribute of "Hod within chesed" knows his Creator and desires to rebel against Him.24 He sins and denies divinity not so much out of a desire to indulge in corporeal pleasure as out of spite.

"Yesod within chesed" refers to the person's strong attachment to and enthusiasm for physical gratification. This attachment is so great that he will kill for it. No risk is too great, even when he knows that his indulgences are ruining his health.

"Malchus within chesed" refers to forbidden speech in general, and especially to speech involving denial of G‑d and His Torah, as practised by those who deny G‑d's existence and publicly scoff at His mitzvos, either verbally or in published writings. The feckless conduct of the freethinkers and heretics coarsens the world, and is antithetical to G‑d's purpose in Creation, namely that Jews through Torah-study and the performance of mitzvos refine and elevate the world.

Jews refine25 and elevate the world by employing the G‑dly intellectual and emotive traits of their divine soul.

Chesed is the instinctive love of G‑d possessed by the G‑dly soul.

For the G‑dly soul, "Chesed within chesed" is the revelation of this natural love, so that it is not limited to the heart. Herein lies the difference between loving G‑d "with all your heart" and loving Him "with all your soul."26 In the latter instance, the love is not limited to the heart, but spreads throughout a person, affecting all his powers. This love enables an individual to reject physical delights and worldly wisdom.

"Gevurah within chesed" is enmity to those who hate G‑d, as the verse states: "Those who love G‑d, despise evil...,"27 or "I hate them with a consummate hatred."28

"Tiferes within chesed" involves the utilization of all of one's inner beauty for the adornment of Torah and mitzvos, as the verse states: "And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the L-rd."29

"Netzach within chesed" refers to emerging victorious in one's battle to vanquish the animal soul and yetzer hora.

"Hod within chesed" means standing up against heretics and scoffers, criticizing them and obliterating their influence on Jews.

"Yesod within chesed" is being bound to Torah and mitzvos with total self-sacrifice.

"Malchus within chesed" is reflected in the constant uttering of words of Torah and prayer.

The above outlines the complete attribute of chesed as displayed in holiness. The same applies also to the other [six emotive] attributes; they are all completed by their seven sub-attributes. In turn, they purify the emotive attributes of the yetzer hora and refine the emotive attributes that are based on intellect.

The meaning of "You shall count for yourselves" is thus:30 You shall make lucid31 your "inner I," the inner I of a Jew being his emotive attributes of holiness.

The Omer [which is made from animal feed] alludes to the instinctive emotive attributes. The mitzvah [of Omer] involves uplifting these instinctive attributes. Three people;32 three scythes; three sah; three baskets all indicate that the service deals with the emotional attributes.33

A moist Omer alludes to chesed that must be dried in the fire of gevurah.34 The 13 sieves are the 13 attributes [of mercy].

Sefiras HaOmer, purifying and "making lucid" the instinctive emotional attributes, can come about only as a result of "Shabbos," rest and withdrawal from worldly suppositions, and the realization that a Jew must dedicate himself to Torah and mitzvos.

When a Jew toils at rectifying his "seven weeks" by seeing to it that the seven emotive attributes of the G‑dly soul purify the seven emotive attributes of the yetzer hora and refine the seven instinctive emotional attributes, he is assured from Heaven that "they will be complete," [i.e., his labor will be successful and he will have positively affected all the emotive attributes].

In summary: The term "for yourselves" refers to each Jew's Divine intellect and emotion. "You shall count for yourselves" thus means you shall "make lucid" your "inner I." Chesed is love. To the G‑dly, " chesed within chesed" is love with all your soul. " Gevurah within chesed" is the animosity felt towards freethinkers and heretics. " Tiferes within chesed" is the beauty of serving G‑d. " Netzach within chesed" is the overpowering of the animal soul and yetzer hora. "Hod within chesed" is standing firm against heretical influences. " Yesod within chesed" is being bound to Torah and mitzvos. "Malchus within chesed" is demonstrated by speaking a multitude of Torah letters.