WONDERLAND ISN’T AT SEE-WORLD
עד ממחרת השבת השביעית תספרו חמשים יום והקרבתם מנחה חדשה לד’
ממושבותיכם תביאו לחם תנופה שתים שמי עשרונים וגו’
Until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count, fifty days, and you shall offer a new meal-offering to God. From your dwelling places you shall bring bread to be waved, two loaves of ten-eiphah etc.
The Omer count, launched on the second day of Pesach with the bringing of the Omer meal-offering, culminates fifty days later on Shavuos with a corresponding meal-offering known as the Shtei Halechem, or Two Breads. This unique offering, referred to in our verse as a “new” meal-offering, consisted of two breads baked of freshly harvested wheat from that season’s first crop. Similarly, the Omer-offering of Pesach was made up of the very first grain to be cut that year. As the Talmud tells us, it is these two meal-offerings alone which must be of new produce, whereas all others may equally be brought from stored wheat of seasons past. Interestingly, there is another unique requirement shared only by this pair, and that is the need to be of grain domestic to the land of Israel. As our verse puts it, “From your dwelling places, [i.e. Israel], you shall bring bread to be waved, etc.”.
Is it mere coincidence? Or should the fact that these two requirements of being new and being homegrown, go hand-in-hand, tell us something perhaps about the nature of… something?
We think yes, and that nature of something would be the nature of newness itself.
The Omer period, you see, is the season of renewal in Judaism. It is on Pesach that the Jewish nation was originally born, and it is on Pesach that we have been annually reborn ever since. And it is on Shavuos that our nation was first wed with the Torah, turning it into the anniversary upon which our commitment to that relationship is yearly renewed.
And so it is that right about now we find ourselves seeking freshness in our national identity and renewal in our religion.
And indeed, the drive to experience newness is one of the most basic drives we humans have, and a positive one at that. Yet more often than not, we find ourselves seeking that newness in all the wrong places; from without rather than within and from the foreign rather than the familiar.
We think our current state too dull and its reservoir of fulfillment too depleted to provide that spark of spunk we so crave.
The Torah, however, thinks otherwise.
Find newness, but find it in your own backyard. Don’t travel the world to find something novel, rummage in your rucksack to find something new. Bring new, but bring it from your own land.
Climb higher, to discover unmapped peaks on the mountain upon which you stand. Drill deeper, to uncover untapped reserves under the ground upon which you tread.
To climb the first five feet of every mountain on Earth, is to have done nothing a thousand times over. To climb the last five feet of a single mountain never before set foot upon by Man, is to have done something truly remarkable for all of time. Many have dug six feet a thousand times, and they might as well have been digging their own grave… a thousand times. Yet few have drilled six thousand feet once, and chances are those who try may successfully tunnel their way into eternity.
If we are to ever truly accomplish anything, we must remain laser-focused on our plot of proverbial terrain, and the never-ending exploration of its new and undiscovered frontiers, rather than the mere taste-testing of everything but our own eternal slice.
That is what newness entails, and that is what we are expected to strengthen right about this time of year.
So let us not wander, and squander our yonder, by wasting our wonder, on wonderless things.