Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why were Pharaoh and the Egyptians punished for what they did to the Israelites?

One of the major themes of the Haggadah is that of divine justice; the Egyptians oppressed us in numerous ways and they received payback through the ten plagues and the miracles by the Yam Suf for their wicked deeds. This theme is not just limited to the Egyptian oppression but to every nation throughout history who has attempted to destroy the Jewish people; reaching its climax when after the meal we open the door for Eliyahu the prophet to herald the final redemption and beseech Hashem to pour out his wrath against the nations that know him not, שפוך חמתך.

There is one obvious question when studying this theme especially in reference to the Egyptians and other nations in Tanach whose oppression of the Israelites was divinely foretold and in some cases even applauded by the prophets. Why should the Egyptians (or Babylonians or Assyrians) be punished for what they did against the Jewish people if they were merely carrying out God's will? If Hashem told Avram at the Covenant Between the Parts that his descendants will be oppressed and enslaved in a strange land than shouldn't the Egyptian oppressors be rewarded for carrying this out? This question becomes even more pronounced in later prophecies. Jeremiah singles out Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire by name as the people who will lay waste to Judea and Jerusalem, destroy the temple, and exile the Jewish people. Why then is Nebuchadnezzar and his people worthy of punishment for fulfilling this prophecy?

This question is not my own. It was famously asked by both the Rambam and Ramban. In the shiur below, I present this question and go through some of the answers given by these classical commentaries and their significance for us. I am not sure if every one of their answers is satisfactory to me but I believe this is a very cogent question, unfortunately as relevant today as in more ancient times. Please watch the shiur and go through the sources below and feel free to continue this discussion at your seder and summarize any interesting insights you gain in the comments to this posting.

I am indebted to Mrs. Racheli Weiss who shared with me the Ramban that became the basis for this shiur and to my students in 10T1 Nach in The Frisch School who persisted in their questions as we studied Jeremiah Chapter 25 which introduced Nebuchadnezzar as the tool of divine wrath. It was their vigorous questioning which compelled me to research this issue further.

 היינו דאמר ר' חנינא הרבה למדתי מרבותי ומחבירי יותר מרבותי ומתלמידי יותר מכולן 
תלמוד בבלי תענית דף ז עמוד א-

That is what Rabbi Hanina says: I have learned much from my teachers, and even more from my friends, but I have learned the most from my students.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why do we invite Eliyahu Hanavi to our Passover Seder?

Eliyahu Hanavi is one of the most fascinating people in Tanach and Rabbinic literature. Eliyahu appears in our Rabbinic literature as an old Zaidy or loving uncle who is a beloved guest at our every holiday and life cycle event. Eliyahu is the מלאך הברית for whom we set up a special chair, the כסא של אליהו, so he can attend every Brit Milah. He visits every Passover Seder, coming through the open door when we state שפוך חמתיך על הגוים, Pour out thy wrath against the nations, and "sips" from the כוסו של אליהו, the fifth cup of wine that we pour for him. We sing for his return every Motzi Shabbat immediately following Havdalah.

However, this is far removed from the persona of Eliyahu in much of Tanach. In Eliyahu's first appearance in Tanach, he stops the rain due to the wicked deeds of Achab and his generation, causing a 3 year famine. Later, Eliyahu only brings back the rain after his showdown with the prophets of Baal at Har Carmel who after being proven false, Eliyahu summarily slaughters.

Later, Eliyahu is forced to flee to the desert and sees a vision of God on Har Horeb (Har Sinai). Hashem first asks Eliyahu what he is doing there. Eliyahu's response illustrates his worldview. He says:

וַיֹּאמֶר֩ קַנֹּ֨א קִנֵּ֜אתִי לַיהוָ֣ה ׀ אֱלֹהֵ֣י צְבָא֗וֹת כִּֽי־עָזְב֤וּ בְרִֽיתְךָ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶת־מִזְבְּחֹתֶ֣יךָ הָרָ֔סוּ וְאֶת־נְבִיאֶ֖יךָ הָרְג֣וּ בֶחָ֑רֶב וָֽאִוָּתֵ֤ר אֲנִי֙ לְבַדִּ֔י וַיְבַקְשׁ֥וּ אֶת־נַפְשִׁ֖י לְקַחְתָּֽהּ׃

I have been zealous for Hashem, God of hosts, because the Children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, destroyed your altars, and killed your prophets by the sword. I am the lone prophet left and they want to take my life as well. (Kings I, 19: 10; Translation is my own.)

Eliyahu indicts the Israelites for their wicked deeds. Hashem then proceeds to show him a vision of Wind, Thunder, and Fire in which God is in none of these, followed by a soft still voice in which Hashem appears. As the Malbim explains, Hashem is trying to communicate to Eliyahu through this vision that the proper approach of a prophet towards his people should not be one of harsh rebuke and stinging indictment but rather to pull them with cords of love and soft words. (For a more extensive elaboration on this approach see the book Yonah ben Amitai ve-Eliyahu: le-hora'at sefer Yonah al pi ha-mekorot by Rav Yehoshua Bachrach.)

However, Eliyahu refuses to accept this message. Even after this vision when Hashem asks him once again what he is doing here, Eliyahu's response is identical to the one he gave previously,

קַנֹּ֨א קִנֵּ֜אתִי לַיהוָ֣ה ׀ אֱלֹהֵ֣י צְבָא֗וֹת כִּֽי־עָזְב֤וּ בְרִֽיתְךָ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶת־מִזְבְּחֹתֶ֣יךָ הָרָ֔סוּ וְאֶת־נְבִיאֶ֖יךָ הָרְג֣וּ בֶחָ֑רֶב וָֽאִוָּתֵ֤ר אֲנִי֙ לְבַדִּ֔י וַיְבַקְשׁ֥וּ אֶת־נַפְשִׁ֖י לְקַחְתָּֽהּ.

Eliyahu is a zealot and will not change this about himself. Later on, Eliyahu kills legions of soldiers of Achab's son Achaziah with fire and eventually ascends to heaven on a chariot of fire. Eliyahu seems to hardly be the Zaidy or loving uncle that he is depicted in rabbinic literature. Based on this portrayal, I doubt that we would want to invite him to our Brit Milah or seder.

However, this is not the last time Eliyahu is mentioned in Tanach. Eliyahu makes one last appearance in Tanach in the last chapter of the Prophets.

ספר מלאכי פרק ג begins with a mention of the מלאך הברית:

הִנְנִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָכִי, וּפִנָּה דֶרֶךְ לְפָּנָּי; וּפִתְאֹׁם יָּבוֹׁא אֶל הֵיכָּלוֹׁ הָּאָדוֹׁן אֲשֶר אַתֶם מְבַקְשִים, וּמַלְאַךְ הַבְרִית אֲשֶר- - - - אַתֶם חֲפֵצִים הִנֵה בָּא - -אָמַר, יְהוָּה צְבָּאוֹׁת.

Behold I will send my messenger and he will clear a path before me and suddenly come to his sanctuary the lord that you seek, and the Malach HaBrit (messenger of the covenant) that you wish for behold comes, so says Hashem of Hosts. (Translation is my own.)

The identity of this "מַלְאַךְ הַבְרִית" is unclear in this verse but becomes abundantly clear when reading to the end of the chapter.

כג הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ לָכֶם, אֵת אֵלִיָּה הַנָּבִיא--לִפְנֵי, בּוֹא יוֹם יְהוָה, הַגָּדוֹל, וְהַנּוֹרָא. כד וְהֵשִׁיב לֵב-אָבוֹת עַל-בָּנִים, וְלֵב בָּנִים עַל-אֲבוֹתָם--פֶּן-אָבוֹא, וְהִכֵּיתִי אֶת-הָאָרֶץ חֵרֶם.

Behold I will send for you Eliyahu the prophet before comes the Day of the Lord, the Great and Awesome Day. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the hearts of the sons to the fathers lest I come and destroy the land totally.(Translation is my own.)

The Eliyahu of Malachi, the Malach HaBrit who will turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the hearts of the sons to the fathers, seems to match well the depiction of Eliyahu in rabbinic literature. However, this does not answer the question but amplifies it. What changed between Eliyahu's ascension to the heavens in a chariot of fire in the Book of Kings and Eliyahu's return to herald the Moshiach in the end of Malachi? How could the same zealot who unwaveringly followed Midat HaDin, divine justice, when dealing with Achab and his generation transform into this symbol of God's mercy and compassion? Why do we invite Eliyahu to have an honored seat at every Brit and a special cup at our Pesach Seder?

I saw a lengthy well-researched article discussing this last issue about the cup for Eliyahu on the Seforim blog. You can read it here. He quotes many different reasons for the cup of Eliyahu first brought down in the late Rishonim/early Acharonim. One notable early source is Rabbi Moshe Chagiz (1671-1750) published in the early 16th century in both his Birchat Eliyahu and Shut Shtei Lechem which connects the כוסו של אליהו at the Seder with the כסא של אליהו at the Brit and, I believe, addresses our fundamental question about the character of Eliyahu as well. I have posted this source together with many of the other sources on this topic here. I will excerpt relevant portions of the Shut Shtei Lechem below.

ועל הכנת הכוס לאליהו זכרו לטוב יש לו שורש למטה וענף עץ עבות למעלה דהנה ודאי /שמעת/ שמעתי עד כה טעם הכנת הכסא לאליהו בשעת המילה וכינוי השם. שהוא אלי' מלאך הברית... והפה שאסור לדבר על ישראל שהפרו את הברית הוא הפה שמאשר ומעיד על ישראל ונעשה עצמו סניגור בהיותו עד הרואה שישראל מקיימין את הברית...

Concerning the Cup of Eliyahu it has a strong basis because the reason for preparing the Chair of Eliyahu at the time of the Milah and giving Eliyahu the nickname the Malach HaBrit is because... the mouth who indicted Israel stating that they forsook the Brit is the very mouth who will give testimony in support of Israel and become their defense attorney when he sees that they are keeping the Brit. (Loose translation is my own.)

Rabbi Moshe Chagiz is referencing a famous Midrash which states that since Eliyahu was the prosector against the Children of Israel accusing them of forsaking the Brit, his Tikkun for all eternity is that he will attend every Brit Milah and be able to testify forever that in fact the Jewish people have not forsaken the Brit. He will testify that through all generations even in times of great persecution and personal sacrifice, the Jews have kept the Brit.

א"כ הכא זכינו לקיים מנהגן של ישראל בליל פסח להכין לו כסא דמהמנותא ומטה ושולחן ערוך שבו ישראל מקיימים את הפסח שאחד מחוקותיהן ומשפטיו הישרים הוא ית' אשר צוה עליו וכל ערל לא יאכל בו... ובלילה הראשונה שנתקיימה מצוה זו מאכילת הפסח הוצרכו לקיים מצות מילה תחיל' כמ"ש ואעבור עליך מתבוססת בדמיך שדרז"ל זה דם מילה ודם פסח

Based on this, we have reason to establish the custom of Israel on the night of Pesach to prepare a cup of wine and a place at the table where we fulfill the Pesach [for Eliyahu]. Because one of the laws [of the Karban Pesach] is that an uncircumcised male cannot eat it. And on the first night that they fulfilled this mitzvah of eating the Pesach sacrifice, they first needed to fulfill the mitzvah of Brit Milah as it says in Yechezkel (16: 6) and I saw them steeped in blood [and I said, through your blood shall you live, through your blood shall you live]. Our rabbis teach us [that this double reference to blood] refers to the blood of the Milah and the Pesach. [The first two mitzvot the Children of Israel fulfilled prior to the Exodus from Egypt.] (Loose translation is my own.)

We see here the clear connection between the Chair of Eliyahu and the Cup of Eliyahu since the mitzvah of Milah and the mitzvah of Pesach are interconnected. A male cannot perform a Karban Pesach unless he has a Brit Milah. The Maharal and others explain this that the Man is considered to be born imperfect represented by the ערלה, the foreskin. In order to fully join Knesset Yisrael, one must perform the Brit Milah to remove the ערלה and make the Jew the proper receptacle for Kedushah. However, this is only a prerequisite. Then a Jew must do an action of service to Hashem which is represented by the Karban Pesach. This is also the reason why at the time of the Temple every male convert had to not only undergo Milah and Tevilah but had to bring a special Karban as well. (This begs the question of why women don't have a mitzvah comparable to the Brit Milah to "perfect" them but this is beyond the scope of the current discussion.)

אם ודאי להגיד שבחן של ישראל ולהזכיר לפני הקב"ה שהם קיימו מה שקבלו במצות פסח התלויה במילה אין כאן ספק כי בא יבא ברכת אליהו ז"ל בכל בתי ישראל לראות קיום המצוה אחת שהוא שתים פסח ומילה שהם מקיימים ויעלה לנו השמימה להליץ בעד כלל ופרט ישראל למהר ולהחיש גאולתם ופדיון נפשם בגאול' אחרונה דהאי דרגא בתראה דגואל אתקרי שיהיה בב"י =במהרה בימינו= אמן וזה פשוט וק"ל.

This is surely to tell the praises of Israel and to bring a remembrance before Hashem that they have fulfilled the mitzvah of Pesach which is dependent on Milah. There is no doubt that the blessing of Eliyahu will come to every Jewish house to see that they have fulfilled both the Pesach and Milah. This will go up to heaven as a positive testimony to hasten the final redemption speedily in our days. (Loose translation is my own.)

This beautiful idea can answer our seemingly contradictory portraits of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was and always will be a zealot for Hashem. However, once he comes to every Brit Milah and every Pesach Seder for all generations his attitude towards the Jewish people will change. Not because he has changed but because the מציאות, the reality of the situation, has changed. Once he sees that we never forsook the twin covenants of Milah and Pesach, he will become our greatest advocate.

I saw Rabbi Joseph Telushkin bring down this idea, I believe in his work Jewish Literacy. He added that it is up to us to educate Eliyahu. He will only be able to return as the perfect zealot for God in a perfected world. It is incumbent on us, the Jewish people, through our steadfast adherence to Milah and Pesach to prove to Eliyahu that the world is in fact worthy of him to return. Once Eliyahu has been given enough "proof", once he has attended enough of our Brit Milah ceremonies and Pesach Seders celebrating with us our devotion to our civenant with Hashem, he will return to herald the coming of the Moshiach as we say in Birchat Hamazon:

הרחמן הוא ישלח לנו את אליהו הנביא זכור לטוב ויבשר לנו בשורות טובות ישועות ונחמות

May the merciful one send us Eliyahu Hanavi of good memory to announce for us good news, salvations, and consolations.

From the Seforim Blog.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Teruah and the Sin of the Golden Calf

In reading about the Sin of the Golden Calf in today's Torah portion, I noticed something that to me seems a bit strange. When Joshua hears the noise of the people celebrating at the golden calf, the Torah describes this as בְּרֵעֹה (Shemot 32:17). Virtually all of the classical commentaries interpret this to mean shouting or crying coming from the same root as the word for תרועה, Teruah, the broken middle sound of the Shofar which is compared to crying. For example, see Targum Onkelus who translates it as מיבבן the same word used in the Talmud to describe the תרועה sound, Ibn Ezra who directly connects this word with תרועה, and Rashi who says it means בהריעו another form of the word תרועה.

Furthermore, the use of the word ברעה is not just incidental to the story. Different forms of the word רע appear over half a dozen times in the account of the Sin of the Golden Calf. It is actually the מילה המנחה, the leitwort, of the story. Rav Shimshon Raphel Hirsch explains that the root רעה means broken and thus the תרועה is a broken sound and someone who is רע, evil, is morally broken or corrupt. The repeated use of different forms of רע also might be an allusion to the Egyptian god, Ra. (See Rashi Shemot 32:12 based on the Midrash).

Why is this so troublesome to me?  Rosh Hashanah is described in the Torah as being personified by the תרועה when it is called a יום תרועה in Parshat Pinchas and a זכרון תרועה in Parshat Emor. The association of this sound of the Shofar with the Sin of the Golden Calf does not seem to be something we would want to evoke on the Day of Judgment. Furthermore, the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 26a) applies the rule אין קטיגור נעשה סניגור, the Prosecutor cannot also serve as the Defense Attorney, to explain why we cannot blow the horn of a cow on Rosh Hashanah because of its association with the Sin of the Golden Calf and why the High Priest cannot enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur with his golden vestments for the same reason. Why then would we personify the day of Rosh Hashanah as a day of תרועה if that very sound evokes the memory of the Sin of the Golden Calf?

I welcome answers to this difficult conundrum which I have not seen addressed by the commentaries. Please enter your answers or references to sources that deal with this issue in the comments to this posting.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Some answers from my students to the question: How should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah?

Last week I posted a question a question about Yaakov's role in stealing the Berachot and the resulting consequences that he suffered throughout his life and beyond. I asked:
If you could bend time and space like Hiro Nakamura, would you go back to meet Yaakov right before he stole the berachot and convince him not to? Would this have been good for Yaakov? Would this have been good for the Jews? (Assuming there would be Jews minus the events during Yaakov's sojourn with Lavan.)
I asked this question to my students and below are some of their responses. I welcome your responses as well.

We would choose NOT to go back in time and tell yaakov ot to steal the berachot. Honestly-nothing would be the same if he didn't. We would not be descendants from him, we'd come from esav, meaning we wouldn't be Jewish. - Rebekah and Lemore

If I had the unique ability to go back in time, I would for sure stop Yaakov from accepting the blessing of the firstborn. This would save both Yaakov and the rest of the Jewish people great pains. Although Esav embarrassed the bracha by even thinking of selling/giving it away, Yaakov still should have known better to not accept it. Ramban tells us that a person has to have the ability to see beyond what’s in front of him. Every time a person has a nisayon-beit with money, arayos, or whatever it may be-right now it looks like the greatest pleasure in the world. One does not see what the repercussions are orwhere these actions may take him. Such a person will never be able to overcome anything and is considered a fool. A fool only sees what’s directly in front of him. This is what Esav is, a fool.

Later on in this "story" Yaakov is forced to meet up with Esav. Although some commentaries say it was peaceful, there is a midrash that states Esav tried to bite the neck of Yaakov. This is why Yaakov should have personally denied this transaction.

The Jewish people were affected by this whole mess because Esav was affiliated with amalek. Yaakov took the firstborn bracha (through perfectly legal means), but it caused Esav great anger. Esav had an excuse to use to rally up his followers. Unfortunately, this all started from the sale of the firstborn bracha. - David

OK so first the obvious problem with going back with the desire to change the past: if I were to do so, it would cause a paradox because the past will have already been changed so I would not need to go back, and if I do not go back then it will not have changed, etc. Now, disregarding that: what has happened in this universe must happen, because there is already an alternate universe, as proposed by the multiverse theory, in which Yaakov did not end up stealing the brachot. So this has to be the one in which he does. Now, disregarding THAT theory, and instead talking about the theory not having anything to do with time travel, but instead on the one that proposes that the Torah was written by people, not by Hashem, and that the stories in the Torah are either just that or did not happen the way they are told, there is a high chance that I would go back in time only to see that either this entire story did not happen, in which case I might go to find Yaakov and instead find a rubber duck with a note, left by the last time traveler, explaining, ORRRR I would find that the story happened COMPLETELY differently.

Hehe sorry about that, I'm feeling nerdy at the moment xD

So now, disregarding all above theories and going with the simple one that fixed points in spacetime CAN be altered within the same timeline, and that the events in the Torah happened exactly as they are told, I don't know if I would. I think that a big part of Yaakov's having stolen the Bracha was that it strengthens the idea that Israel is not rightfully ours. And I believe that if there were not people opposing our existence, then we would not be so strongly inclined TO exist. There are people that are truly zealous about Israel and Judaism, and I don't know if it would be so if there was nobody to oppose that. There are for sure people that would disagree with me, but I think that part of what gives something its value is when others want it too. If one gets a nice watch, consider the following: If everyone that sees it speaks there love for it, that person would value it much more than if everyone that saw the watch would coil and say that it's ugly. If there was nobody in the world that opposed Judaism, that said how wrong it is, if there was nobody that wanted to take Israel from us, I don't know if we would give it as much value.

So if I were to go back in time and stop Yaakov from stealing the Bracha, I would need to sit and study all possible outcomes of the scenario in order to gauge what would be the best. I believe that that moment is a temporal point in the history of Jews, or, at least, in the story of the Torah. -Ari 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Concerning the Sins of the Avot: How should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah?

Here's a question from the Parsha which I would like feedback on. Today I was giving a Dvar Torah in my shul presenting the "pshat" approach to Yaakov's actions of Rabbi Moshe Shamah (see and and others (see Rabbi Eitan Mayer's Emet Le-Ya’akov) that Yaakov was not born a man of Emet but had to grow into Yisrael, the man of truth. This is based on a Lookjed discussion on Dealing with the Sins of the Avot that I was involved in almost 11 years ago.

One aspect of this approach is the reading of Lavan's deceiving of Yaakov into marrying the older daughter Leah instead of the younger Rachel as a punishment mida k'neged mida for Yaakov's own deception of his father Yitzchok into giving him the berachot instead his older brother Esav. This punishment sets the stage for much if not all of the events of the second half of Sefer Breishit and really much of the rest of Tanach since Yaakov's marriage to Leah and Rachel results in constant strife and rivalry first amongst his wives and then between his sons the Shevatim and later between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The question I was asked is how should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah when she first gave him the idea for this deception? Should he have gone along with it? My initial answer is that he should have said no. If the berachot were meant for him, he would have received them anyways; he should have waited and not attained the berachot from his father through a deception. Had he stood up to his mother, the course of history would have been changed.

But then I started thinking... Is it so easy to answer this way? Maybe Yaakov, the Ish Taam, simple man, would never have become Yisrael, the Ish Emet, man of truth, had he not gone through these trials and tribulations. The Netziv in Harchev Davar (Parshat Toldot, 27: 1) has an essay that touches on this in which he presents an alternative highly original approach to why Yaakov had to receive the berachot in this way.

Bottom line, my question can be summarized based on a character from the popular TV series Heroes which I have become addicted to watching on Amazon Prime. If you could bend time and space like Hiro Nakamura, would you go back to meet Yaakov right before he stole the berachot and convince him not to? Would this have been good for Yaakov? Would this have been good for the Jews? (Assuming there would be Jews minus the events during Yaakov's sojourn with Lavan.) I welcome your responses to this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Flipped Classroom: Sefer Ezra Chapters 1-3

This is cross-posted on my TechRav blog.

I am planning to try the Flipped Classroom model this year in my Nach class. We are learning about Shivat Zion through Sefer Ezra/ Nechemiah, Chagai, Zechariah, and (maybe) Malachi.

Here are my first 5 videos on Ezra Chapters 1-3 with HW assignments as a Google Form for each of them. I welcome your constructive feedback.

1. Ezra Chapter 1, Verses 1-6

2. Ezra Chapter 1, Verses 7-11

3. Ezra Chapter 2

4. Ezra Chapter 3, Verses 1-7

5. Ezra Chapter 3 Verses, 8-13

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pesach and the Counting of the Omer

Pesach, the holiday of our freedom, as we know should be celebrated as our most joyous festival. Yet on the second day of Pesach we start counting the Omer. The joy is no longer unlimited. It becomes subdued. What does counting represent if not the lack of something in the present that is anticipated in the future? Furthermore, Chazal have imbued the time of the Omer with a quasi mourning characteristic. The Baal Hamaor in fact claims that the reason that we do not make a sheheheyanu on Sefiras Haomer is because the counting is a mournful one.

The Rav asks: why did the Torah mix with the joy of Pesach the sadness of the Sefirah period? Even if one would say that this mourning is on a rabbinic level, obviously our rabbis were connecting this mourning to the Omer since the Omer lends itself to this.

Rabbi Soloveitchik answers this through an analysis of the pesukim that describe the connection between Pesach and the Omer in Sefer Vayikra. It says:

ויקרא פרק כג
ד אֵלֶּה מוֹעֲדֵי יְקֹוָק מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם בְּמוֹעֲדָם:
ה בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם פֶּסַח לַיקֹוָק:
ו וּבַחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה חַג הַמַּצּוֹת לַיקֹוָק שִׁבְעַת יָמִים מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ:
ז בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כָּל מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ:
ח וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם אִשֶּׁה לַיקֹוָק שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ כָּל מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ: פ
ט וַיְדַבֵּר יְקֹוָק אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
י דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וּקְצַרְתֶּם אֶת קְצִירָהּ וַהֲבֵאתֶם אֶת עֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם אֶל הַכֹּהֵן:
יא וְהֵנִיף אֶת הָעֹמֶר לִפְנֵי יְקֹוָק לִרְצֹנְכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת יְנִיפֶנּוּ הַכֹּהֵן:
טו וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה:
טז עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה לַיקֹוָק:

The Rav notes that despite the fact that the Omer is brought on the second day of Pesach, Pesach and the Omer are presenting separately in the verses. Not only that but the word used by the Karban Omer and the counting of the Omer is מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת it should begin on the day after Shabbos. Some of you might know that this was the source for the famous argument between the Perushim and Boethusians. The Boethusians read מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת literally as the day after Shabbos and always started the Sefiras HaOmer on the day after Shabbos following Pesach so that Shavuos was always a Sunday. The Perushim who represent rabbinic Judaism hold that here Shabbos means a day we do not work, namely the first day of the Yom Tov of Pesach and not the day of Shabbos so Shavuos can fall out on any day of the week. This was such a strong argument that on the day that the Perushim finally defeated the Boethusians they made a holiday. Why is it that the Torah chose to call the start of the Omer as מָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת instead of directly connecting it to Pesach?

The Rav answers that this is because the Pesach and the Omer represent two opposite extremes. Pesach represents the supernatural, Hashem's open revelation and intercession into Jewish history with the Yetzias Mitzrayim. This is what we celebrate on the seder night. But as we know, Hashem cannot always be so openly involved in history. In order for humanity to be endowed with free will and the ability to make independent choices, Hashem must operate behind the veil of a natural world. This is represented by the Omer. When Benay Yisrael arrive in Israel, they will plow and plant the soil and then grow their produce through natural means. After harvesting their first crops, they are commanded to bring the Karban Omer the barley from this natural harvest. This is the reason why the Pesach and Omer are presented separately despite the fact that they coincide on the calendar. The Pesach celebrates the God of revelation while the Omer commemorates the God of natural events. It is also for this reason that the Omer is brought מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת. Shabbos represents the natural order of creation. In six days, Hashem created the world and on the seventh he rested. It is after Shabbos that we bring the Omer.

The Omer then has a certain sadness to it. After experiencing the great joy and revelation of the Pesach holiday. We have to go back to a normal existence. It is back to work and back to school.

The challenge of the beginning of the Omer is to bring the Karban Omer, to recognize that Hashem is just as involved in the natural as he is in the supernatural, only he is hidden from view. Hashem is always there. Only he hides behind the veil of nature and history. For brief fleeting moments he shows himself in all of his glory like at the splitting of the Yam Suf. We remember this and use these moments of inspiration to see Hashem throughout the rest of the year in natural events. It is this that we commemorate through the counting of the Omer.