Emor – ‘Then’ vs. ‘Now’
Freedom without direction is just another form of slavery.
These words by R’ Shlomo Carlebach ob’m are liberating… if we understand them.
We have more freedom today than we ever had before, yet deep down inside, we would rather receive orders from someone, telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. It is all because we truly want a direction, more than wanting actual freedom.
This is exactly where sefira comes in.
Not only are we going to Har Sinai, but the manner in which we are going to Har Sinai is what the work of Sefirat Ha’omer is all about.
Utilizing this time, and making sure the freedom we attained on Pesach doesn’t become our slave driver.
Sefira is a very odd mitzvah, to simply count, and nothing more.
What is so special about counting?
When looking forward to something special, we usually count dow , but here we are counting up. On the one hand I count by checking days off, but there is a danger in this method. What may happen is that things in the middle, the days itself, get lost. On the other hand, I can count exactly what is in front of me, not losing the ‘now’.
You see what it is, the word ‘then’ plays a tricky role. When we count toward the ‘then’, we lose track of the ‘now’.
On Pesach we celebrate freedom from the Egyptian idol worshiped style of living. So here, the Torah is giving us specific instructions. It’s not enough to just be freed from the bad, the purpose is about acquiring the good.
Quite often we wonder why thing are still not going the way we would like, after we have refrained form bad habits. When one is an addict, is it good to get clean? Of course it is, but this is not yet the level of acquiring good. It is still a slave mentality. A free person realizes that I only stopped the bad habits in order to make an acquisition on that which is good.
We assume that if we just stop the bad habits we are good. We may be out of Egypt, but we are still left wondering what is going on here. Hashem, don’t you see how hard I am trying? Meanwhile, HaShem is answering back “and don’t you see how much I’m really offering you? I’m offering you so much more than just not being in the dark. I’m offering you light.”
Rav Erez Moshe Doron beautifully teaches that being freed from our own narrowness is not just an end in of itself. The real purpose is to live an exalted and elated Torah life. Oh, what we wouldn’t do in order to stop getting stuck into the nitty-gritty details of life.
Sefirat Ha’omer is the bridge from physical to spiritual liberation. We each have a test to overcome in order to really have a serious personal redemption.
When leaving Egypt, we thought this was the real deal, but at a certain point each of us started to wonder ‘now what’, or ‘is this it?’
The Medrash tells us that four-fifths of our people thought their bad habits were now done, and they assumed that they were now protected. Many did not stand the test, and chose to stay back in Egypt, and to enjoy their new status. They really thought the work was done. Those who stayed back got lost.
Why do we have so many mentioning of leaving Egypt? Because it’s at the essential calling we need to hear. On that level, nothing has changed. To become free and become liberated from modern G-d’s, money and silver, from materialistic ideology, and apathy toward any exalted value of life, and to go out into the unknown for the sake of receiving the Torah.
No one forced the one fifth to leave Egypt. What happened to the four-fifths? They disappeared from the story. That’s their end. No past, no present, no future.
People with direction never get left behind.