Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thoughts on Behar

There's a clear linguistic parallel between the Torah's commands for the omer and for the yovel:
  • Omer: "You shall count for you, from the day after the day of rest, from the day that you brought the 'omer hatenufa'; seven complete weeks they shall be; until the day after the seventh week you shall count 50 days." (Vayikra 23:15-16)
  • Yovel: "You shall count for you seven weeks of years, seven years seven times; and the days of seven sabbaths of years shall be for you forty and nine years." (Vayikra 25:8)

This parallel may hint at a deeper symbolic parallel.

The yovel cycle goes as follows: 49 years - yovel - 49 years - yovel. Therefore, every period of 49 years has a yovel year, in which people go free, both immediately before and after it.

It seems that for the omer, too, there is an event symbolizing freedom both immediately before and after. Right before the omer is pesach, when we went free from Egypt - that one is obvious. Right afterwards is shavuot, when we received the Torah. The midrash says "charut al haluchot - al tikra charut ela cherut", indicating that the torah is something which "makes you free". What this means in practical terms is not obvious. But perhaps we can say that there are two ways we can view the Torah - as a burden which restricts us from doing things we want to do, or as an opportunity to live one's life and influence the world according to a higher standard of morality. One who follows the (obviously preferable) second approach can indeed say that they are "more free" than they would have been before receiving the Torah.

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