Between Pesaḥ and Atzeret

Pesaḥ and Shavuot share the same inner nature, for Shavuot is what gives meaning to the freedom of Pesaḥ. In and of itself, going out to freedom is meaningless as long as a new independent personality is not formed to invest the freedom with inner content. The connection between these festivals takes on further meaning because of the connection between two events in the agricultural year. The first crop of barley, animal food, is harvested and offered on Pesaḥ, while the crop that is the food of man, wheat, is offered on Shavuot.

The symbolic significance of this dual connection has been interpreted throughout the generations as the relationship between the primary, incomplete festival – the exodus from Egypt, which is essentially the negation of exile – and the level of the people’s full development and inner freedom at the Giving of the Torah.

The days in between, the days of Sefirat HaOmer, Symbolize the “journey in the wilderness,” the path of wandering and searching, the bewilderment, thirst, and deprivation that a person experiences from the first stage of liberation until the reception of the inner light.

It is impossible to reach Mount Sinai directly from Egypt. In order to receive the Torah, there must first be a period of inner preparation. God gave the Torah only once, but we are required on the festival of Shavuot to receive the Torah each year anew. Our readiness to receive the Torah, to declare, “We will do and obey,” requires preparation, and that is why the receiving of the Torah is delayed for seven weeks.

In the mystical literature, an analogy is drawn between the seven weeks of Sefrat HaOmer and the seven clean days in the laws of nidda (the menstruant woman). In the Torah, there are two mitzvot connected with counting: “She shall count to herself,” in the case of nidda, and “You shall count youselves” of Sefirat HaOmer (Leviticus 15:28, 23:15). Just as the woman must purify herself during these seven days and prepare for the renewed encounter with her husband, the days of Sefirat HaOmer are days of self-purification and preparation in anticipation of the Giving of the Torah and the encounter with the Holy One, blessed be He, at Mount Sinai.