“And you should count for yourselves … seven complete weeks.” (Vayikra 23:15)
Rabi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of students and they all died because they did not respect one another. We see from this that being among friends who have proper goals inspires each member of the group to support and strengthen each other. (Rav Shlomo Wolbe, Alei Shur)
The air is redolent with the aroma of spring. Flowers are budding and birds are singing.
The days fly by. It’s already the 29th day of the Omer. Actually, the days aren’t really flying by. They are being counted, acknowledged. During sefirah, today is not merely yesterday’s tomorrow.
Reb Nosson says in the name of Reb Acha, “Although Yisrael is busy with their work for six days, every Shabbos, they come to the beis knesses … and HaKadosh Baruch Hu says to them, ‘My children, raise your voices so that your friends … should hear you.’ The word “friends” here is referring to the malachei hashares, the ministering angels. Hashem is instructing bnei Yisrael to make sure that they don’t hate one another, are not envious of each other, and don’t shame one another, so that the ministering angels do not say: “Ribono shel Olam, You gave the Torah to Yisrael, yet they are not busy with it; they are busy with hate, envy, and competition” (Shir HaShirim, Midrash Rabbah, ch. 8, section 11, seif 1).
These words are powerful. If there are bad character traits among those who learn Torah, it’s considered as though they did not learn. Perhaps we’d call these type of people “lo lishmah,” not learning for the sake of Torah. However, Chazal clearly state that it’s considered as if they are not involved in Torah at all, because one who is busy with Torah is inevitably fostering good character traits and peace. (Alei Shur)
The power of true Torah rectifies middos and elevates souls. A Torah home without derech eretz is an oxymoron.
So how does this affect we women who are busy raising these Torah homes? As we prepare and count the days to Matan Torah, do we appreciate the significance of this countdown? Are we focusing on seven weeks of efforts to prove that our home is worthy of accepting the gift of Torah?
I hung up the phone from my coworker and grit my teeth. What she said to me was irritating, humiliating, and unfair. I was furious. But it’s 29 days into the Omer. So I won’t get angry; I won’t respond, and I won’t even repeat it to my sister.
That’s how I’ll count the Omer and merit a home of Torah.
The ministering angles are called “chaveirim,” friends, because there is no jealousy, hate, or competition among them. However, they also do not have a yetzer hara. This is not the case with talmidei chachamim who do have a yetzer hara. Yet, their Torah purifies them so that they too are called chaveirim, indicating their similarity to the malachei hashares.
It is incumbent upon us to base our relationships on the foundation of derech eretz. The Rambam comments: “One who has no Torah, no Mishnah, and no derech eretz is not part of civilization. Derech eretz has two components: nachas [pleasantness] and mussar.”
When I speak pleasantly, people accept my words.
But nachas alone is not sufficient. All the emotional motivators in social ties are rooted in selfishness. One has to battle these expressions of selfishness with mussar to be a chaver, a true friend. (ibid.)
As I count my days, I must focus on this goal. I spent the whole afternoon cooking a delicious supper. I left the house for a few minutes after reminding my daughter to shut the fire. When I returned, she was on the phone and the rice was burned. Any other time I would have delivered a lecture on responsibility and then snapped at everyone during the rice-less supper. But I want to feel like each day of Omer is formulating something inside of me — to become more deserving of receiving the Torah. So I bit my tongue and didn’t even tell my husband.
We, who aspire to dwell in a makom HaTorah, have a tremendous obligation to be very careful in the halachos of derech eretz in everything we do. Dealing pleasantly with others is part of ahavas Hashem and Kiddush Hashem in the world. (ibid.)
The weather outside is beautiful. Spring is gently painting the world with its vivid colors. And I am busy, trying to paint my soul with the brilliant hues of Torah with derech eretz.