perhaps we should remember the agricultural roots of sefirat haOmer in Torah:
“and from the day on which you bring the sheaf [of measure ‘omer’] of elevation offering–the day after the sabbath [Pesach]–you shall count off 7 weeks. they must be complete: you must count until the day after the 7th week–50 days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to G’d.” (Leviticus 23:15-16)
so we bring an elevation (or wave) offering of barley immediately after the holy day (day 1) of passover. barley is the first fruit of the grains of the Land of Israel, and the wave offering of it makes all the other produce of the new crop permitted for use by the People outside of the Temple.
we then count the omer till we arrive at a full 7 weeks. then we bring an offering of wheat (the 2 loaves) on the holy day of Shavuot, after which the rest of the new meal crop is permitted for use as offerings in the Temple.
1 sheaf of barley measuring 1 Omer of grain offered immediately after Passover day 1. hmmm. now when is that barley reaped so that it is ready in Jerusalem immediately after the Holy Day ? it was reaped on the day of the festival…and even on shabbat! (see Menachot 6 in the Mishnah)
how’s that as a proof for the importance of Omer?
so important that the 49 days following are named and counted by the measure of that single sheaf of barley. so important that the time of ripening of the life-or-death important wheat crop is counted off in the measure of that sheaf of barley. so important that the only specification as to when Shavuot occurs is by the count of the measure of that sheaf of barley. so important the to this day we still engrave headstones with a sheaf for the phrase in the kel mole rachamim “may he/she be bound up in the sheaf of eternal life.” and you thought that barley was just for making soup a little more hearty!
it is the Omer that makes the new year for the grain crop real for the People…before then they can use only the previous year’s grain….and that was probably getting a bit long in the tooth by then (so last year)…..and full of chametz. aha! how do you avoid chametz during passover? not just by careful watching of some of the grain from the previous year, but by using absolutely fresh, locally sourced barley from day 2 on.
now we know that chametz represents the wrongheadedness of pride and puffery. it is the symbol of our self-separation from G’d by seeing the entirety of Creation as only our view…as an extension of ourselves instead of as an extension out of G’d. we must flatten our exalted self-importance in Passover.
but the counting of the Omer comes to give us more, to take us from the bread of affliction to the joy of fresh soul in the harvest loaves of a renewed Creation. here is a kabbalistic ‘correspondence’ for all you kabbalistas: yetzirah is integral to both Passover and Shavuot. Passover is the festival of the exodus from mitzrayim. Shavuot is not only the festival of weeks and the festival of the giving of Torah (though baruch haShem it is those!), but also Chag haKatzir, the festival of reaping. think of the letters–add kuf to the scarcity of tzadee resh (tzr) and you have plenty; add yud to the narrowness of slavery in tzadee resh and you have freedom.
bring the yud of G’d’s Name to narrowness/scarcity and freedom follows;
bring the kuf of G’d’s Holiness to narrowness/scarcity and bounty follows.
it is in the counting of the Omer that we will free ourselves, with G’d’s help, from our spiritual constraints. it is in the counting of the Omer that we will go, with G’d’s help, from scarcity to bountiful harvest of the spirit.
and it is in the counting of the Omer that we will go from broken matzah to the plenty of 2 complete loaves.