Experiencing and Re- experiencing by Rabbi Benny Berlin

When I was learning in Israel, I had the opportunity to learn with Rav Yisrael Herczeg. Rav Herczeg is the translator for the ArtScroll Rashi, and the author and translator of several other books. The following wasa teaching that he gave over in our Chumash Shiur about counting the Omer.

‘עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם; וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה, לַה

“Until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count, fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal-offering to Hashem… You shall convoke on this very day- there shall be a holy convocation for yourselves”(Vayikra 23:16:21)

The Bnei Yissaschar points out something unique about the mitzvah of counting the Omer. Although this is a mitzvah that comes at a specific time during the year, we do not recite the blessing of Shehecheyanu over it. Why not?

The Bnei Yissaschar explains that Shehecheyanu is recited only over new experiences. But the counting of the Omer is not a new experience; it is a re-experience.

On the night of Yetziat Mitzrayim, HaKadosh Baruch Hu manifested His Presence with such intensity that it left no room for doubt about His existence and His Providence. But afterwards He withdrew that Revelation. Things went back to normal. God revealed Himself to Israel on the night of Pesach so that they would understand what they should aim for. We are capable of achieving intense awareness of God on our own. And that is the ideal. That experience is much greater when it is earned than when it is handed to you.

When we count the Omer, we attempt to recapture the closeness with Hakadosh Baruch Hu that we experienced at the time of Yetziat Mitzrayim. If we succeed, not only can we regain that state, we can go beyond it by virtue of its being regained through our own efforts. Then, on the fiftieth night, the night of Shavuot, we say Shehecheyanu, for the state we attain then is unprecedented and even more exalted than that which we experienced on Pesach.May we be zocheh to use the opportunity granted us for perfecting ourselves during Sefirat HaOmer and have a Shavuot which will bring us to love Torah like never before.