28 Iyar, 5781
The last week of the Omer: Shabbat in every weekday
The sages teach us that the Torah was given originally on Shabbat. That year, the year 2448, the year of the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah, Rosh Chodesh Nissan was on Thursday, and so was the first day of Pesach, the Exodus itself. If we make a simple calculation from the first day of Pesach to the giving of the Torah, the 50 days of the Counting of the Omer begins on the 16th of Nissan, which was that Friday. Then we find that in that year was on the 51st day. There are two opinions in the sages on which date in Sivan that was. The sages say that it was on the 6th of Sivan but according to Rabbi Yossi Moshe added an additional day and it happened on the 7th. But, in either case, it was a Shabbat (depending on whether Iyar had 29 or 30 days). If it was 29 days, then the Torah was given on Shabbat the 7th of Sivan, but if it was 30 days, then it was given on Shabbat that was the 6th of Sivan. The date we use today is the 6th of Sivan, because on our calendar, Iyar always has 29 days.
In any case, the Torah belongs in its essence to Shabbat. Shabbat is about rest. God Himself finished the Ten Utterances in six days and on the Shabbat He rested. This means that all of the Divine energy of creation ascends back to its source. That is what it means that the Creator rested. This state of returning to its source is especially related to the Giving of the Torah so that we unite with it. That we preform the commandments in a state of tranquility and rest. Feeling good and not feeling stressed in any way. God does not want us to feel stress when performing His will. Everything should be with a state of Shabbat.
The Rebbe spoke about this profusely, that the Torah should be performed in a state of tranquility. This is how the Introduction to the Tanya explains its purpose: that through this book, one will find tranqulity for one’s soul. The Divinity incorporated in the Torah should lead to a state of tranquility and rest. A state of Shabbat.
The gematria of “Torah” (תורה) and “Shabbat” (שבת) both are multiples of 13, an important number in Torah like the 13 Measures of Mercy, etc. Numbers that are multiples of 13 have these qualities of . Torah is “love” times “selflessness”. Shabbat is 54 times 13. So together the two words equal 101 times 13, which is actually 1313, and as a phrase this equals, “Resurrection of the Dead” (תחית המתים). It says that God will resurrect the dead with the dew of the Torah, which is the manna which physically did not fall on Shabbat, but spiritually it specifically descended from its Divine source on Shabbat.
It says that every word we heard from the Ten Commandments and as we reenact every year, every word we died. The meaning is that the soul ascended, the revelation was so great that the soul ascended and the body died. But instantaneously God revived us with the dew that in the future will cause the resurrection of all the souls of the world.
All this is teaching us about the essential relationship between Torah and the rest that is in Shabbat, the spiritual experience of being together with God. This is why Shavu’ot is called the Day of the Giving of the Torah and the Day of Receiving the Torah, one experience, because we become one with the Giver. This is the ultimate serenity of the Torah, which is what God wants from us.
Today is the first day of the seventh week of the Counting of the Omer. We said that according to Rabbi Yossi and the sages, the Torah was given on the 51st day. If we count from Pesach itself, then there were 52 days, which is 2 times Havayah, like before the 13 Measures of Mercy. The first represents God’s infinity before the world was created and the second is the infinite as it descends into time and space.
Once again, from the Torah we learn to count 49 days and the 50th day is spontaneously counted. It’s because we reach such a state of rest that it counts itself. We don’t have to open our mouths and express with our lips the counting, it just counts itself. But, that year there were 51 days. 51 is the value of 3 times 17, the value of “good” (טוב). What does this tell us? The sages say, “There is no good other than Torah” (אין טוב אלא תורה). The Torah is also described as good above and good below. So this is a state of chazakah of goodness. So it is good for heaven, good for people, and it’s good for me. One has to know that Torah is good for me more than all the gold and silver in the world. A chassid thinks of other people before his own good. But, even though he begins with thinking of how it is good for others, he also has to think about himself.
Another interpretation is that in the soul itself there are 3 levels, represented by 3 idioms, “sechel tov” (שכל טוב), Good intelligence, that gives him grace (שכל טוב יתן???). Intelligence has to be goodly. The most important seat of goodness in the soul is the heart. That’s why we find the expression “a good heart” many times in Torah. It says in Pirkei Avot that the most inclusive good property that one should pursue in life is “a good heart.”Once we rectify all the measures of the heart, we have a good heart.
So we have a good mind/intellect, a good heart, and the third is “a good act,” or good deeds. Most often if a person does good deeds, they have a good heart. The flow of the soul should be from the good mind to the good heart, to the good deed. These are three levels, the intelligence is called the muskal, the Chabad. The good heart are the essential attributes of the heart. This is called the murgash, the emotions of the soul. The good deed is an instinct in the Jewish soul, a pattern of natural and normal behavior. This is another interpretation of what the three “good”s refer to.
There are several different ways of understanding the 50 days. The simplest and straightforward way is that the 50 days are 7 times 7 and then the next day, the all inclusive (the kollel) is the 50th day. But, another way of understanding the 50 days is that there are 5 times 10 (according to the writings of the Arizal). These are 50 gates of consciousness, 50 gates of understanding. But, another way to simply understand is to correspond it to the three months. We have to complete this count in order to be one with the Giver of the Torah. So we have three months during which we count the Omer. From Nissan there are 15 days of counting. 29 days in Iyar. And, finally there are another 6 days in Sivan. 15, 29, and 6.
When it comes to the Omer the days accumulate. The second day for instance is 2 days to the Omer, so we have the 1st day plus the 2nd day. These are triangular numbers. If we clacualte the triangular values of these 3 numbers we get tri(15) = 120. Tri(29) = 435. Tri(6) = 21. The sum of these three is 576, a perfect number (sometimes it refers to a square), 24 squared. The number of hours in a day. So this division is a very significance and important way to divide 49 days.
But, the most important and explicit division of the Omer is into weeks. There are many different ways to understand what the seven weeks refer to. Clearly they reflect the seven emotions of the heart from loving-kindness to kingdom. Each week is one of the seven attributes, and on each day of the week, the attributes inter-include. So on the first day we intend to rectify the loving-kindness of loving-kindness and so on. In the second week we have the week of might (which is also awe, of heaven). The third week is compassion. The foruth week is confidence in God. The fifth is walking earnestly with God. The sixth week is the ability to fulfill one’s self, self-realization, making a promise to myself and make it come true. Finally, the seventh week is about kingdom whose inner experience in holiness is being lowly. Externally, the king is above the people, but deep down in his heart he feels that he is the lowest. That allows him to receive the inspiration to lead the people in the right way.
Now the seven weeks also correspond to the first seven days of creation. The whole first week corresponds to the first day of creation when suddenly “light” appeared. The second day is about the division between higher and lower waters. The fifth day of creation is the creation of life or animals. The sixth day is the continuation of the animal kingdom. The crown of the sixth day is the creation of crown. All of that creative power returns to its source on Shabbat, and one experiences a state of calm.
Now we are starting the seventh week and let us try to understand the meaning of each of the days of this week as it is relative to the Shabbat. Every day is about the rest of Shabbat. The whole week is about entering a state of tranquility, of rest. Then we can receive the Torah in a consummate state of rest.
The first day is about, since now we’ve entered the 43rd day of the seventh week. We will call this the light within the rest. If a person is lonely and by himself being in the lowest energy level is rest itself. Whomever knows a little physics knows that the lowest energy level is itself defined as “rest.” That is a beautiful way to understand the relationship between the inner quality of kingdom, lowliness, and the experience of Shabbat, which is rest and tranquility. The first day of creation is the day on which light was created. The idea here is that since preceding creation there is the general, primordial state of Shabbat, then we emerge from a state of rest and I experience the light of the first day of creation. It comes after the initial darkness. Rest means that everything return to its origin, as explained earlier, in that all the dichotomies of creation actually begin to unite. When something is created, it is distinguished, it becomes a separate entity, it is particularized. When it returns to its source, to its origin, then that dichotomy becomes united once again. Shabbat is a day of unity. Thus, something happens on the first day of the seventh week of the Counting of the Omer, whereby light returns to its origin and becomes one with the primordial darkness and the darkness itself becomes light. What we thought was dark and black is actually beautiful, perfect light. That is the experience of light on Shabbat and the night is experienced as day.
So, Shabbat is the day on which the night is experienced as light. At the beginning of Shabbat, as darkness begins to fall, we say Kabbalat Shabbat to receive the Shabbat, we sing Zemirot, it is a night of unity. That is the rectification (tikkun) of the first day of the seventh week of the Counting of the Omer.
Moving on to the second day when the firmament was created. All six days are a descent, not of ascent back to the source, which is Shabbat, thus the firmament divides and separates the higher waters and the lower waters, which represent Divine and spiritual pleasure versus mundane pleasures. Water in general is considered the source of all forms and types of pleasure in the soul (מים מצמיחים כל מיני תענוג). The higher waters are experiencing and receiving pleasure from Divinity, which means experiencing Divine Providence in life. That is full of pleasure and one becomes very happy to experience Divine Presence in our life, in our day to day being. It is possible to experience this with every breath that we take, feeling that all is under personal Providence. This is the simplest way to understand Divine pleasure.
The lower waters are the physical pleasures a person feels when he is unaware of the Divine. By pursuing the material world alone and not knowing that in fact the entire material world is Divine, the individual causes a separation between the material, physical realm and the soul and source of the world.
What happens on Shabbat? On Shabbat it is a mitzvah to have physical pleasures. This is known as Oneg Shabbat (ענג שבת); one should eat well and know that all of our physical pleasures are actually Divine; it is all Divine pleasure. The severing between the higher and lower waters is healed and united on Shabbat. That is the significance of rest and tranquility in the second day of the seventh week of Counting the Omer: the firmament that normally divides reveals its inner essence, which is not to sever and separate, but to connect and unite. The second day is then the experience of unification of higher Divine pleasure and lower mundane reality and pleasure.
The third day is already Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the 45th day of the Omer. 45 is the value of “man” (אדם). It is an important number in Kabbalah since it is the value of the filling of God’s Name, Havayah (יוד הא ואו הא). This is the day on which historically we came to the Desert of Sinai where we received the Torah, as one, and with one heart. On the third day of creation vegetation was created, the trees and the grass—all that is in the vegetable kingdom. What is the Shabbat aspect in respect to these?
The sages explain that initially, God intended for the taste of the wood and bark of the tree and the taste of the fruit be identical (טעם עצו כטעם פריו). But, on the third day of creation, the earth was unable—as if the earth has some consciousness and power of choice to it—to create as God intended. Every Shabbat we experience something of the World to Come. Shabbat is described as, “similar to the World to Come” (מעין עולם הבא). On Shabbat, the rest of Shabbat causes the bark and the fruit to unite. Instead of severing, things return to their source and unite.
What does the unification of the bark and the fruit in the manner that both will have the same taste mean in our service of God? The Torah has 613 commandments. These are represented by the fruit. Each of the commandments is a sweet fruit. The bark represents all the mundane activities that we perform. There is a verse that states that, “You should know God in all your ways” (בכל דרכיך דעהו). In all the mundane actions of life, we should unite and be one with God. If we can unite with God in all that we do, then every step we take, going to work in the morning, etc.—the taste of the bark—becomes identical to a mitzvah, to a commandment that we perform because God commanded us—the taste of the fruit. This is a reflection of rest. One can only experience these states of unification only through the state of rest in Shabbat.
On the fourth day of creation God created the sun and the moon and the stars—the luminaries. And on the fourth day of the seventh week of Sefirat Ha’omer, we reveal the state of unification in these. Like we said on the third day regarding the separation between the taste of the bark and the taste of the fruit, here too, on the fourth day, God intended that the sun and the moon—the male luminary and the female luminary—should be identical. But the moon asked, “How can it be that two kings use a single crown?” God answered, “Very well then, diminish yourself.” That made the moon smaller than the sun and made it into a receptacle for the sun’s light, allowing it only to reflect its light. But, the initial intent was that the sun and the moon be identical.
What do the luminaries represent in our Divine work? They symbolize our ability to be a luminary ourselves—i.e., to be a light. The light that was created on the first day represents what we call, “light that illuminates one’s self.” This is what we learn in order to enlighten ourselves. But, the light that was created on the fourth day is the, “light that illuminates others.” It represents our ability to teach in order to affect others. [It also includes our role and duty to be a light unto the nations.]
What does the differentiation created between the sun and the moon represent? The sun and the moon are like a teacher and a student. In the present state of reality, there is one teacher, one luminary who is the sun. The sages describe this with the statement that, “the face of Moses is like the face of the sun, but the face of Joshua [his student] is like the face of the moon.” Everything that Joshua received was seen on his face as reflected light from his teacher.
But, when Mashiach comes, immediately, in our days, it is said that this will no longer be the case. Rather, the teacher and the student will be one, they will be on the same level. The two will use a single crown. As the prophet says, “They will no longer teach one another to know Me [God], for they will all know Me, from their smallest to their greatest.” No longer will one person say to another, “Teach me.” All souls will directly experience God. We will all be students of God Himself (למודי הוי’) and we will all teach what we know. Each one has a unique soul root that will reveal itself and each person will teach from his soul-root. In that way, we will all be the same and we will unify through these teachings that we teach one another. That is the rest and tranquility of Shabbat that takes the creation of the luminaries back to their source. Indeed, there is another level of unification here that we already mentioned in regard to the first day of creation. The sun is the day and the moon is the night and their unification also symbolizes the unification of day and night, just as light and darkness will unite.
On the fifth day the animals were created. In English and in Hebrew the word “animal” is related to motion or animation. In Hebrew the Jewish philosophers said that “All that is alive, moves” (כל חי מתנועע). Movement is also pulse, the dual movement called “run and return,” which is the essence of the life-force. An animal sees something in front of it and wants to reach it and it moves there. That is the difference of course between the animals and the vegetables and inanimate parts of creation. The origin of the property of movement is in the consciousness, in the thought process. Thought is always on the move. The expression is, “thought is always wandering,” from one state to another. We might think that thought is a property of man alone, but that is not the case. Thinking is a function available to the entire animal kingdom. On the fifth day of creation the two life-forms that were created were the fish and the birds. What do they have in common? Both glide through their mediums. The fish swims in the water and the bird flies in the air. In fact, in Hebrew, there is a verb whose meaning is both to fly through the air and to swim through the water: לשוט. Amazingly, this is the same verb that we just quoted regarding thought, “thought is always wandering” (המחשבה משוטטת תמיד). Wandering is לשוט as well. If you want to reach a destination, then you have thought. Then you also have an experience of time because you are saying, “Now, I am here. But, I want to be there in a few moments,” as Moses said at the Burning Bush, “I will go from here to there” in order to see the great miracle of the bush not being consumed. The deeper meaning of the fifth day is thus movement within thought and physical movement. All this movement on Shabbat takes place in a state of rest, which is the opposite of movement. But, a person can move naturally, flowing naturally with tranquility and rest. So even though he may not be moving in space, he is moving in thought. In fact, moving in thought means that on Shabbat you can move faster. To move in a state of perfect rest is the inner meaning of the fifth day of the seventh week of the Counting of the Omer.
We said that thought is not the unique attribute associated with man. Mankind’s special attribute is speech, which represents communication—expressing myself to another for the sake of unification. In Hebrew, to speak also means to unify in a physical sense, like between a husband and wife. There is some primal form of communication between other animals, but essential communication is unique to man. There is an explicit verse in the Torah that “man became a living soul,” which Onkelos, the Torah’s Aramaic translation renders, “man became a speaking spirit.” On Shabbat it says that the sages hardly permitted us to speak, even words of Torah. This is because we must emulate God who rested on Shabbat from the Ten Utterances of creation. Thus, Shabbat is a day for singing—specifically for melodies without words. Song without words is the secret of the cantillation notes of the Torah—the Torah’s song. Singing is a tranquil state of speech, of communication. So even though it was difficult for the sages to allow us to speak even words of Torah, they did allow it. Yet, the high point of Shabbat, which is dedicated to learning the Torah’s secrets, we dedicate the third meal to singing. The rest of Shabbat means that whatever you do is without effort, it is natural.
Now we come to the seventh day, the rest of rest, the Shabbat aspect of the seventh day of creation, which was Shabbat. Sometimes a person rests because he is very tired and he needs to make an effort to rest. But, the rest within rest is an effortless state of rest, whereby all the states of creation represented by the seven days of the week and the seven faculties of the heart, become effortless. We call this “natural consciousness.” The perfect natural flow of consciousness. When we attain this state, we are ready to receive the Torah, which is the performing of God’s will in a state of rest and tranquility.
May we all merit to receive the Torah anew this Shavu’ot, to receive the Torah from the mouth of Mashiach himself, who will teach us a new level of Torah. He will teach us how to connect to our soul-root so that there will no longer be a need for anyone to teach others about God.
Once again, may we all have a chag same’ach and a receiving of the Torah, an internalization of it with joy and internally.
. See Rashi to Exodus 3:3.