". . .AND YOU SHALL AFFLICT YOUR SOULS IN THE 9TH DAY OF THE MONTH IN THE EVENING . . ." (VAYIKRA 23:32)
The Talmud, Tr. Brachos 8b, asks what does it mean to fast on the 9th day? Don't we fast on Yom Kippur itself on the 10th? The Talmud answers that if one eats and drinks on the 9th day of Tishrei, the eve of the awesome day of Yom Kippur, and fasts on Yom Kippur, it is regarded as if he afflicted (fasted) himself on both the 9th and the 10th days.
Rebbe Elimelech of Liszensk, the Noam Elimelech, asked why eating on the 9th of Tishrei should be regarded as fasting? He answered his own question saying, "If on the eve of Yom Kippur, one were to contemplate the awesome and holy character of the approaching day, how his repentance is hanging in the balance, he certainly would not be able to put a bite of food in his mouth. Therefore, observing the mitzvah to eat on the 9th day is indeed a hardship and an affliction."
"Six days you shall work, and on the seventh day it is Shabbos ..."(Vayikra 23:3)
The Chiddushei HaRim of Ger once asked why we don't make a blessing of "Shehechayanu" on Shabbos like we do on the Festivals? (Blessed is G-d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.) He answered that since we know that the whole week receives it's sustenance from the Shabbos , it isn't appropriate to make the "Shehechayanu" blessing, Shabbos never leaves, is always with us.
. . . AND YOU SHOULD BRING THE OMER, THE FIRST OF YOUR HARVEST . . . (VAYIKRA 23:10)
Once the Baal Shem Tov was asked by his disciple, the Maggid of Mezeritch, if he could explain the statement of the Holy Zohar which compares the Omer offering to the meal offering of the Sotah (the wife accused of being unfaithful to her husband).
The Baal Shem Tov, as was his way explained with a parable. Once a nation rebelled against their King, and he wasn't able to ascertain who were the rebellion's perpetrators. So the King made a feast for all the citizens of the nation. Because of the great simcha (joy) of the participants in the feast, everything became revealed.
The Baal Shem Tov's parable deserves elucidation. The Sotah offering checked the wife to determine if she was indeed unfaithful. The Omer offering checks the Jewish people who have been unfaithful and rebellious by not heeding the word of the King. The Omer offering is brought on the 16th of Nissan. Over the next 40 days we have the opportunity to heal ourselves, each day of the Omer count working on a specific area until we are again whole.
The days of the Omer are the feast (the Ramban says they are like a Chol HaMoed between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuos.) Like the King, we are in doubt which of the citizens (our personal qualities), are the perpetrators of our rebelliousness. During the Omer period we have the opportunity to examine each quality and to determine if it is truly in service of the King. This opportunity is the simcha (joy) which reveals all. As the Talmud says. "There is no joy comparable to that of the resolution of doubts." Through the joy of discovering and revealing the identity of the perpetrators of our rebellion against the King, we can come back full heartedly to our King.
Reb Beryl Ludmir, one of the elder Boyaner chassidim in the Holy Land once related the following story.
I was chosen to be one of four Chassidim of R' Mordechai Shlomo, the Rebbe of Boyan who was chosen to travel to Haifa to meet the ship which was bringing the Rebbe from America on one of his later visits to the Holy Land. Our destination was Tel Aviv, then the home of dozens of Chassidic Rebbes who had survived the Nazi inferno, including the Rebbe's cousin, the Abir Yaacov, Rebbe of Sadigora.
In those times, most of the Rebbes made their homes in Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem for the simple reasons that Tel Aviv was, devoid of churches.
In the cars of those days, the trip from Haifa to Tel Aviv took 2 hours. The four of us sat in anticipation, ready to drink from the wisdom of the Rebbe that we were certain was about to stream forth and overflow its banks inspired by the Kedushah of Eretz Yisroel.. Nevertheless a full hour passed, and the Rebbe still sat silently, his gaze intent only what he saw through the window of our car.
Finally, I garnered the courage to question the Rebbe about his behavior. R' Mordechai Shlomo, his attention now fully focused upon us, explained himself. "It says in the Torah (Deut. 11:12)", he began, "concerning the Land of Israel, that the eyes oHashem are continuously concentrated upon it. Now Hashem, who created the Land and its inhabitants, and intimately knows its every mountain, every valley, every river, every field, nevertheless keeps his eyes constantly upon it. All the more so it is proper for somebody like me to set my eyes upon the Land." And with that he returned his gaze to the Land of Israel passing by him from the car window, and said not another word for the remainder of the journey.
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