Rabbi Levi Yitzchak on Counting the Omer

Counting the Omer

A teaching of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichiv[1]

Translated by Rabbi Pamela Frydman

Why do we recite shehecheyanu on [most of] the 613 mitzvot and not on counting the omer? There is a teaching of the Ari z”l regarding the verse (Exodus 3:12) “And G-o-d said [to Moses], Certainly I will be with you; and this shall be a sign to you, that I have sent you; When you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve G-o-d upon this mountain.” It is known that while the Israelites were in Egypt, they were immersed in a state of tum-ah.[2] The Holy One of Blessing, in an abundance of mercy and loving kindness, redeemed them from Egypt in order to bring them close, under the wings of the Shechina. So because of their immersion in tum’ah, they needed to count seven cleanliness cycles. Without the counting they would not be able to come close under the wings of the Shechina. This is the meaning of the phrase, “you shall serve G-o-d.” The word “serve” is written ta’av’dun. The Ari z”l defines as ta’av’du nun. Ta’avdu means “you will serve” and the Hebrew letter nun has the numeric value fifty.

“We find,“ says Reb Levi Yitzchak, “that during the counting of the omer, people are in anticipation of when the counting will be completed. They want the completion to arrive soon so they can experience closeness to the divine. Were they to have the capacity to complete the counting in an instant and be immediately able to enter into the closeness, how good and how pleasant it would be. This is why we do not recite shehecheyanu upon counting the omer.

[1] Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichiv, “Las’firah,” (“For The Counting”) Sefer Kedushat Levi Hamefo’ar al Hatorah Umo’adim, p. 287.

[2]. Tum’ah refers to a ritual state when a person is invited to take a break from certain sacred activities or certain ritual activities.