This Shabbos we read Parshas Emor. In the Parsha the Torah tells us the laws of all of the Holidays of the year. After talking about Passover, the Torah describes the mitzvah we are currently in midst of performing, the counting of the Omer. “And you shall count to yourselves from the day after the Holiday (Passover) from the day you bring the Omer offering (the Second day of Passover), Seven full weeks it shall be”. (Leviticus 23:15) We have to count 49 days, connecting the Holiday of Passover to the Holiday of Shavuos, the day that we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, Seven weeks later. The famous commentator Sefer Hachinuch explains that the reason this mitzvah connects Passover to Shavuos is to express our excitement and anticipation for receiving the Torah on Shavuos. Just as one who is waiting for their wedding day counts the days with eager anticipation, so too every Jew counts the days as they eagerly await the day when Hashem will give them the Torah. This counting occurred when the Jews left Egypt, but is repeated every year, as we relive the experience of accepting the Torah anew on Shavuos. Indeed, the well known custom that many have to stay up and study the entire night of Shavuos is based upon this realization that the receiving of the Torah was not just a past historical event, but is relived every year.
The timing of this counting, connecting Passover to Shavuos is also very significant. The fact that we begin counting as soon as we celebrate becoming from enslavement, brings out the purpose of our freedom. We are not simply free as is an animal in the jungle, with no leash or yoke over our bodies. Rather, we are celebrating our ability to serve Hashem, as we become His loyal servants. Thus immediately as we mark our freedom from physical bondage, we begin counting towards the goal of receiving the Torah. Indeed, the Omer sacrifice offered on Shavuos comes from barley, to show that as simple free beings we are like animals. The “Shtei Halechem” offering that was brought on Shavuos is from wheat, to show that we have elevated ourselves to the status of human beings by accepting the Torah.
This is the beautiful mission of these days and weeks, as we prepare ourselves for that most special moment on Shavuos when we will once again receive the Torah anew.