Parashat Emor- Turning Ourselves Into Sapphire
The Torah in Parashat Emor (23:15) introduces the Misva of Sefirat Ha’omer – to count each day for 49 days starting from the 16th of Nissan, the second day of Pesach. Of course, we are in the process of fulfilling this Misva during this time of year, between Pesach and Shabuot.
The Or Ha’haim (Rav Haim Ben-Attar, 1696-1743), in his discussion of this Misva, cites a teaching of the Zohar associating the seven weeks of the Omer period with the process of purification undergone by a woman after becoming a Nidda. Just as a woman requires a period of seven "clean days" in order to regain her status of purity, similarly, Beneh Yisrael similarly required a period of seven weeks to cleanse themselves in preparation for Matan Torah. Over the course of the centuries spent in Egypt, Beneh Yisrael were submerged in the decadent, pagan culture of the ancient Egyptians, and they became defiled. In order to be able to receive the Torah, they needed to undergo a seven-week period of purification, corresponding to the seven-day period of purification undergone by a Nidda. The Or Ha’haim explains that Beneh Yisrael needed seven weeks, and not just seven days, because of the intensity of their defilement, and because they were being purified collectively as a nation, thus necessitating a much lengthier process than that required for the purification of a lone individual.
Developing this point further, the Or Ha’haim cites the Midrash’s comment that the two stone tablets which Moshe was given at Mount Sinai were made from "Senaprinon" – "sapphire." The Or Ha’haim writes that just as G-d’s commands were engraved upon the tablets, so are the words of Torah to be engraved upon our souls. But in order for this to happen, our souls must be pristine and glistening like sapphire. The Torah therefore commands, "U’sfartem Lachem" (literally, "You shall count for yourselves") – an allusion to sapphire ("U’sfartem"). The purpose of the seven-week Sefira period is for us to cleanse our souls, to rid ourselves of our spiritual impurities so that our souls radiate and shine like "sapphire," such that we will be prepared to receive the Torah anew on the festival of Shabuot.
The Misva of Sefirat Ha’omer is assigned to each and every one of us – demonstrating that we are all capable of reaching this level, of becoming like "sapphire." No matter what we have done in the past, we have the ability during these weeks to cleanse ourselves and become pristine and beautiful – just as Beneh Yisrael cleansed themselves during these weeks from their state of impurity. Let us take advantage of the opportunity presented by this special period, and work to improve ourselves so that we shine as brightly as we can, and we arrive at Shabuot in a pristine state ready to accept the Torah.