May 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Lag Ba’Omer has come and gone, and we are now in the fifth of the seven weeks of the Omer. With seven days in each week, there are 49 days in the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuos (see Vayikra 23:15-16), which corresponds nicely to the spiritual growth that Bnei Yisrael experienced between Yetzias Mitzrayim and Kabbalas HaTorah, when they went from the 49th level of tumah to the 49th level of kedusha (see Ohr Hachaim on Shemos 3:8). However, if they started out on the 49th level of tumah, and besides removing the tumah from within them had to also climb to the 49th level of kedusha, there are not just 49 steps that had to be taken, but 49+49! How can each day of sefirah be represented (as is implied when we are taught this in school) as Bnei Yisrael moving up one level if it really required moving up two?

This question is based on the assumption that there must be a linear progression from a lower level of tumah to a lesser level of tumah, to eradicating tumah completely (the “0” point when going from ­-49 to +49) to starting to climb levels of kedusha, ostensibly based on the need to “sur mera,” turn away from evil, before “v’aseh tov,” doing something good (see Tehillim 34:15). And this is certainly true, at least to some extent, as one cannot really do teshuva while still committing the sin being attempted to recover from, which is compared to being tovel in a mikvah while still holding onto the sheretz that caused the tumah in the first place. Nevertheless, human beings are quite complex, and very rarely, if ever, are completely either completely bad (tameh) or completely good (kadosh). Rather, we all have strengths and weaknesses, which co-exist concurrently. [True, it is difficult for someone who has been severely impacted by a person’s weakness to value, or even recognize, that person’s strength (or vice versa), but that is an (understandable) emotional reaction and does not negate the strengths (or weaknesses) that the person has.] Although we are all (hopefully) trying to improve, and (hopefully) using sefirah to make those improvements, we are not only tameh or only kadosh, but have elements of both kedusha and tumah simultaneously.

Since both exist within us simultaneously, growth occurs not just by working on strengthening our weaknesses but by continuously improving our strengths as well (although allocating limited resources, such as time, may lead to focusing on one more than the other). We should continuously try to diminish any tumah within us while also continuously trying to gain more and more kedusha. (Realistically, of course, for it to have lasting value.)

From this perspective, there were not 98 (49+49) levels that Bnei Yisrael had to climb between Yetzias Mitzrayim and Kabbalas HaTorah, but two separate (yet intrinsically related) accounts of 49 each, one of tumah and one of kedusha. On the first day they went from the 49th level of tumah to the 48th,, while also attaining the first level of kedusha. That they were still on the 48th level of tumah did not prevent them from also having some kedusha, and each day there was an improvement in each account, so that after the second day they were now on the 47th level of tumah and the second level of kedusha, etc. By continuously diminishing their level of tumah while at the same time continuously improving their level of kedusha, by the time Hashem gave them the Torah, seven weeks later, they had moved from the 49th level of tumah to the 49th level of kedusha one level—of each—at a time.

By Rabbi Dov Kramer

Rabbi Dov Kramer, known to New York-area sports fans for his role as executive producer at WFAN radio, runs the 8 a.m. Nusach Ashkenaz minyan on Shabbos mornings at The Tif in Passaic. He wrote a weekly dvar Torah for 15 years and offered to try to fill in while Mitchell First takes a break to publish his articles as a book.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles