Times: Shabbat starts on Friday at 5:07pm and ends on Saturday night at 6:05pm. The weekly Torah portion is Emor. Pesach Sheni is today.
Mincha in the CBD: With in-person minyanim now no longer operating, mincha is now virtual. That means we all daven at an agreed time, which is 1.00pm. Details at the WhatsApp group.
Study: Weekly Shiuris now online using zoom – URL and notes are here. Shiur continues on Wednesday at 1:10pm via zoom, following mincha at 1.00pm. BYO lunch.
Thought of the Week with thanks to Jeremy Herz. We typically recite the beracha of shecheyanu on mitzvot which only happen occasionally. One glaring exception is the mitzvah of counting the Omer which occurs annually, and for which we might have expected a shecheyanu on the first night.
Parashat Emor introduces the mitzvah of sefirat ha’omer in exclusively agricultural terms. It is a mitzvah which is bookended by two grain offerings, starting with barley (on Pesach) and ending with wheat (on Shavuot).
However, the Sefer HaChinuch, in explaining the reason for the mitzvah of sefirat ha’omer, focuses solely on the symbolism of this 50 day period as a transition for Bnei Yisrael from slavery in Egypt to becoming the recipients of the Torah on Shavuot. In his view, the agricultural aspect described by the Torah is a mere sideshow. The Exodus from Egypt would have been pointless had the Jews not accepted the Torah. The daily counting is therefore a commemoration of the excitement and anticipation felt by the Jewish people before receiving the Torah, and it is a statement of our current day yearning for, and commitment to, Torah.
Using the Sefer HaChinuch’s explanation of the mitzvah, Rav Soloveitchik explains why no beracha of shecheyanu is recited on sefirat ha’omer. Shecheyanu is a beracha of thanks; we are thankful that we have made it to a particular point in time. If sefirat ha’omer is merely a countdown (or up), which links between two momentous historical events, then there is nothing inherent in this mitzvah for which we ought to give thanks. We recite shecheyanu on Pesach for the miracles of that festival, as we do on Shavuot. But in between, there is nothing discrete for which thanks is due. Moreover, the counting itself is a salutary reminder that we have yet to arrive at our destination – the receiving of the Torah – which is cause for sombre reflection, rather than the joy of shecheyanu. For this reason, no shecheyanu is recited for the mitzvah of sefirat haomer.
May we all merit to discern the wheat from the chaff in our lives.