Posted on May 18, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

However, you shall not count the tribe of Levi, and you shall not take a census of them among the Bnei Yisrael.[2]

Rashi sees this as a tribute to their importance. “The legion of the King is worthy to be counted separately.” This seems counterintuitive, however. To be counted in any manner is nothing to be proud of! Weren’t we promised[3] that “The number of the Bnei Yisrael will be like the sand at the beach – not measurable and innumerable?” (The gemara[4] catches the contradiction. The pasuk first speaks of the numbering of the Bnei Yisrael, only to later say that they cannot be numbered! The gemara explains that both are true. When the Bnei Yisrael follow the will of their Creator, they cannot be counted; when they don’t, speaking of their number is appropriate. Since our parshah deals with numbering, it must reflect the fact that they were not entirely in the good graces of HKBH at that time. In that case, any counting – regardless of how it was done – was not an honorable distinction!)

Numbers are everywhere. Our world is populated by many, many items. All of them, in principle, can be counted. Even in the spiritual realm, there are many different worlds, each filled with countable items.

Only Hashem Himself is aloof from the very notion of counting. His Oneness is such that is not part of a set. It cannot be replicated in any manner. There is nothing that comes before or after, unlike all numbers that we deal with. In their case, every “one” can be followed by a “two.” Hashem stands entirely outside the system of numbering and counting.

Avraham was promised[5] that his progeny, when following Hashem’s will, would attach themselves to Him and thus transcend numbers. But that is not where the Bnei Yisrael are in our pasuk. After the eigel, they no longer occupied such a madregah.

Not so shevet Levi. Free from the taint of that sin, they remained on a lofty level. They transcended numbers. They were uncountable. Thus, they were not included in the national census.

This describes where they were essentially. Practically, however, they were commanded to come down from their spiritual perch, in order to redeem the first-born[6] of the rest of the nation. These first-born, like the rest of the nation outside of shevet Levi were very much countable. Each Levi redeemed a single bechor. Therefore, they too needed to be counted, in their role as redeemers.

The physical exodus from Egypt was followed by a spiritual one. The Bnei Yisrael needed to exit from the kelipah of Mitzrayim, and arrive at a destination of receiving the Torah from Hashem. They had to pass through many spiritual worlds, all of which were countable. The counting of the Omer channels that journey.

We count seven weeks, of 49 days. The commandment, however, is actually to count 50 days! The discussion above solves the riddle. The journey towards Hashem took 49 countable days/levels. After that, they were able to attach themselves to Hashem. He is One – but not in a manner that is shared by what was counted during the seven weeks.

Sefiras HaOmer, therefore, includes both 49 and 50. More accurately, it is 49 plus One.

  1. Based on Meor Einayim by Rav Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl
  2. Bamidbar 1:49
  3. Hoshea 2:1
  4. Yoma 22b
  5. Bereishis 28:14
  6. Bamidbar 3:41