16 June 2024

alternate textThere are a few aspects of the feast of Shavuot that are decidedly different from the other feasts. Shavuot has no major symbol or ritual like the Passover lamb or Unleavened bread or Fasting or Temporary dwellings. It is not part of a SEVEN DAYS, PLUS ONE DAY pattern, like the feasts of the first month and the feasts of the seventh month (although it may be argued that it is the culmination of a SEVEN WEEKS, PLUS ONE DAY pattern). All the other feasts are connected to a specific date of the year. But Shavuot does not have a fixed date. But then again, it is connected to a specific day of the week (the first day of the week), which is not the case with any of the other feasts – despite the false impression, created by the tradition of Good Friday, that Pesach is always on a Friday. Shavuot is connected to the First Fruit Wave Offering (which also doesn’t have a date) and it is determined by counting fifty days, beginning on the First Day of the Week that falls within the seven days of Unleavened Bread. And speaking of counting, no other feast is preceded by such a LONG AND GRADUAL BUILD-UP, as the 50 days leading up to Shavuot. The 50 days of the counting of the Omer, directly before Shavuot, highlights this feast in a way unlike any of the other feasts in Scriptures.

Shavuot may be seen as a feast standing out prominently in the MIDDLE of the feast cycle, a feast that holds the entire cycle together. It is connected to the feasts of the first month by the counting of the Omer that starts within the week of UNLEAVENED BREAD. And by the WAVING of the two breads, which corresponds to the waving of the first sheaves of the barley harvest. But it is also connected to the feasts of the seventh month in the sense that Shavuot is the time of the GREAT WHEAT HARVEST, while the feasts of the seventh month is the time of the GREAT FRUIT HARVEST, called the “ingathering”.

Many of us may have wondered about the concept of counting the omer. Why is the counting connected to an omer, which, after all, is nothing more than a unit for measuring grain or other commodities? In the 50-day period leading up to Shavuot, we do not count grain or commodities or “omers” – we count the days! So, why then is it called “The counting of the Omer”? Let us go back in Scriptures to where we hear about an omer, for the first time – which was when the people of Israel were introduced to the supernatural provision of food in the wilderness, called “MANNA”.

Today’s date is the 16th of June. In Shemot or Exodus 16:16 we read these words, “This is the word which Yahweh has commanded: Let every man gather manna according to each one’s need, an OMER for each being, according to the number of beings.” So, an omer was the amount of food that was ENOUGH for one person, for one day. We have already said that Shavuot is the feast of the WHEAT harvest. In Israel, the wheat blooms in March and April, while the grain (of the wheat) ripens in May and June. So, technically, the SEASON of the wheat harvest started on the day of the waving of the first fruits of the barley harvest, 50 days before the feast of Shavuot – a day that always falls in the week of Unleavened Bread and always in March or April. The first fruits that were waved on that day, were BARLEY, not wheat. The wheat, the actual source of food for the people of the land, was not yet ready for harvesting. But the important thing for us, is the measuring unit, the AMOUNT of barley that had to be waved before Yahweh, on that day. We are told that it was ONE OMER – the amount of food that was enough for one person, for one day.

So, why do we count the omer before Shavuot, the day that is the climax of the wheat harvest? We COUNTED the days after waving an OMER of barley, which symbolized the amount of food that is enough for one person, for one day. But what about the fact that it was BARLEY, not wheat? Barley was the food of the very poor and the animals. At that stage, there was NO WHEAT to present before Yahweh. What about the fact that in South Africa, during that time of the year, we had no fresh barley from the lands, nor wheat, to wave before Yahweh? The answer is this: It is the COUNTING that counts! Within a scenario where the counting starts with an omer, and at a time of the year when there is yet no sign of the harvest, the act of counting is carrying a BEAUTIFUL MESSAGE: I am bringing my omer to Yahweh, the amount of food that is enough for me, for one day, although there is still tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and also, at this stage, no trace of the harvest. In other words: I am presenting to him an offering, whereby I choose to express my total dependance upon Him, on a daily basis. And anyway, what I am offering today, I have also received from Him. Humanly speaking, I have NO GUARANTEE of provision for tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. I am feeling a bit like Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, who had received a great promise from Yahweh, and had made many sacrifices, but had nothing to show as fulfilment of the promise, even up till the time of their passing. But I am counting on Yahweh’s provision. I am counting on his faithfulness. I know He is my Provider, and I am holding fast to each one of his promises. I am praying the way Y’SHUA has taught me, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I am counting the days, because I believe that tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, my omer will once again be provided. I am living by the code of Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to NUMBER OUR DAYS in such a way that our hearts may be brought to wisdom.” And on the final day of the harvest, I will be able to wave my two breads before Yahweh and before the congregation. I shall stand up and REJOICE for the excellent way in which Yahweh had provided for me, and those around me! But, much more than that, my heart will be filled with joy for the mind-boggling way in which He had MULTIPLIED the harvest and gathered and provided for people, whose names I do not even know, from every corner of the earth! It is not difficult to count to 50. But it will be IMPOSSIBLE to count the number of souls that will be gathered into his kingdom on that final Harvest Day!