The mitzvah of counting the omer only began after the people entered their land—that is to say, when they had been given not only freedom (leaving Egypt), but national independence (entering Eretz Yisroel). When they lived on their own land and reaped its harvest, only then did they bring an omer. This teaches us that what the land produces is not ours; rather, it has been grown for the sake of the Torah, and is used to fulfill the Torah’s purpose.
We celebrate our freedom on Pesach, remembering the independence we gained before Hashem. Although freedom is the end goal of other nations, we consider ourselves only beginning, and we start counting toward another goal. The mitzvah of counting is expressed in Devarim: “when the sickle begins to be put to grain, you shall begin to count seven weeks.” Where others stop counting, you will begin.
This is because personal freedom means nothing without Torah. Without Torah, freedom becomes anarchy.
A person who attains freedom must make an effort to prove himself a man. He must break the chains of his body’s impulses, break his stubbornness, which would make him a slave to physicality.
This idea contrasts so sharply with the goals of other nations. In this worldview, only morality has real value—not because it yields prosperity, but the opposite: prosperity has meaning only because it helps attain morality.
It is easy to receive freedom as a gift from Hashem. But if we wish to set ourselves free inside, if we seek to attain the freedom required for our calling as bearers of the Torah, we must aspire to inner growth.
Physical wealth cannot last without spirituality to control it. Prosperity has no value without Torah and mitzvos, especially for us. We cannot possess G-d’s land without His Torah, for the land is only ours because of it.
To have land without Torah would be the surest way to our downfall. If Klal Yisrael became like the other nations, viewing the land as its own and prosperity as its supreme goal, we would be lost, erased from the Divine record of the history of nations. We would be denying our mission if we did not begin to count where others only stop. And so, we are commanded to count from Pesach, the day of our national independence, and our counting leads us to true freedom.
We must learn to use our freedom and our land only in the service of the Torah. Only then will our freedom and our land have real value. Freedom and prosperity are not the end of our national aspirations, but only the beginning.
Have a wonderful Shabbos,
Director, Ani Maamin Foundation
Please note: The “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s commentary on Chumash, with permission from the publisher.