There is no doubt: Redemption is on the way

We have seen the hand of G-d in giving us a major push in the direction of the Geula Sh'leima.

Phil Chernofsky ,

Dancing on Jerusalem's balconies
Dancing on Jerusalem's balconies

First, an important perspective on the Omer period. Looking into this week's sedra (Emor), we are first introduced to the Omer period in the flow of the Festivals of the year. Korban Pesach on 14 Nisan, the seven days of Chag HaMatzot (a.k.a. Pesach to us), then the Omer period that brings us to Shavuot, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot - this is the yearly cycle of festivals. The Omer period which we are commanded to count daily, originally had a Chol HaMoed-like flavor, with Pesach on one end and Shavuot on the other.

With the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, including the cessation of the barley offering on the second day of Pesach and the loss of the Sh'tei HaLechem of Shavuot, the Omer period TEMPORARILY lost its festive flavor. The void created has been partially filled by K'TZAT AVEILUT (a little bit of mourning - strange term but that's what's used).

The K'TZAT is basically no weddings and no haircutting. Many other mourning practices do not apply at all during the Omer.

And how much of the Omer period is mournful? Thirty-three days. And different communities count the 33 days differently.

From the beginning of the Omer until Lag BaOmer - including part of day 33 or all of day 33. Or, from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until shortly before Shavuot - with a break on Lag BaOmer.

And when Lag BaOmer is on Motza'ei Shabbat, Ashkenazim permit haircuts on Friday, 31 to the Omer.

And the first 6 or 7 days of the Omer are Pesach, when there is no mourning and weddings and haircutting are forbid- den for other reasons.

And a person invited to a wedding that is not in the mournful period of the Baal Simcha but is during the mournful period of the guest - the guest goes to the wedding and has a good time.

And a father, Sandak, and Moheil can take haircuts and shave before the Brit, because it is a Yom Tov for them.

And look what has happened to Lag BaOmer - the day that the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying. It started as a day of K'TZAT SIMCHA, a little bit of joy. Add the YOM HILULA of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Lag BaOmer - its eve, no less, has become an awful lot more than K'TZAT SIMCHA.

The term K'TZAT SIMCHA is used for Pesach Sheini, the 14th of Iyar. Sources say that even though it is neither a Yom Tov or a Mo'ed today, it was a festive day during the time of the Beit HaMikdash, for those people who brought the korban on that day.

All of the above was to show that the intrinsically festive period of the Omer has temporarily taken on a bit of mournful behavior, for some of its days, and differently for different commun- ities.

Now let's look at the two main reasons given for mournful practices during the Omer period.

The 12,000 pairs of students of Rabbi Akiva - according to many sources - died while fighting in the unsuccessful rebellion of Bar Kochba.

The other reason is the first Crusades with the murder and plundering of Jewish communities on the Crusaders' way to conquer the Holy Land.

Finally, let's look at Yom HaAtzma'ut.

It is not just a day of joy and thanks to HaShem that 'clashes' with the Omer. It is a day that represents the light shining on the specific dark events that brought aveilut to some of the Omer days.

HAKAMAT HAMEDINA - The Establishment of the State of Israel represents the opposite of the two major tragedies that give the Omer period its temporary mournful nature. On the first Yom HaAtzma'ut, Jewish sovereignty was restored to the Land of Israel after thousands of years. Jews from all over the world were welcomed to come and live in Eretz Yisrael - without quota, without restrictions.

This - and a lot more - are the reasons for us to be thankful to HKB"H for His help and support of our efforts. In the State of Israel, the students of Rabbi Akiva would be given exemptions from military service to be able to learn Torah full time, or they would be given the framework in the army that would allow them to be part of the Jewish army without compromising their religious standards.

Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael means the Crusades and Inquisitions and much else are non-starters.

IY"H, when the Complete Geula is with us, we will stop mourning altogether during S'firat HaOmer. But for now, we have seen the Hand of G-d in giving us a major push in the direction of the Geula Sh'leima. For this, we say on Yom HaAtzma'ut, ZEH HAYOM ASA HASHEM, NAGILA V'NISM'CHA VO. And we celebrate the day in homage to Him.