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Emor – (There Ain’t Nothin’) Holier Than Thou

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

You shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the rest day, from the day you bring the Omer offering, seven weeks; they shall be complete

The start date of Sefiras Ha’omer, known to us as the second day of Pesach, is referenced in the Torah as “the morrow of the rest day”, which is kind of non-descriptive, given the numerousness of “rest-days” in Judaism. While the Sages let us in on the fact that this is indeed a reference to the rest-day of Pesach, why the Torah would use such an ambiguous term remains a mystery. What’s more, why would the Torah identify the start date by describing the day which precedes it, rather than the day itself? Why not call the date by its rightful name?

Apparently, in stating that the countdown to Sinai begins on the day following “the rest-day”, the Torah is conveying something about the nature of Sefiras Ha’omer rather than merely its date.

The idea of “rest-days” in Judaism is to put the body to sleep, so to speak, so that the soul can then revel in spirituality unrestrained by the chains of physicality. The more one breaks away from the physical, goes the logic, the more one can experience the spiritual.

And indeed, in just about any dimension, this logic holds true. Less physicality, more spirituality. For this very reason, the ideal of most religions is an aesthetic life, stripped of as much physicality as humanly possible.

Yet in Judaism, there is a “morrow of the rest-day”; a dimension which transcends the spirituality of bodiless-ness. Certainly, we must rest our bodies from time to time so that our bodies do not overtake our souls, yet Judaism teaches that it is not when our souls float around bodilessly, but when they channel their spirituality through our bodily functions, that the pinnacle of holiness is reached. A spirituality confined to fleeting moments of transcendency is far less powerful than one that can accompany us from the synagogue to the kitchen, from the bedroom to the study.

On the “rest-day”, a.k.a. Pesach, God lays to rest the dimension of physicality epitomized by Egypt, and elevates us onto a plane on which only spirituality exists. Yet on the very morrow, we are obliged to begin cultivating a plane even holier; a plane of spirituality so powerful that it extends its reach to encompass the entire spectrum of physical existence. That plane is Sinai, upon which the Torah reigns supreme, spiritualizing the physical rather than meekly reclusing itself from it.

What the countdown to Sinai teaches us is that while living with our souls is certainly holy, having our souls live within our bodies, is that much holier.

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