HaRav Mordechai Greenberg, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah, Kerem B’Yavneh (copyright KBY) (footnotes missing!)
“When you come to the land that I am giving you… you shall bring the first omer of your harvest to the kohen” (Vayikra 23:10). Chazal explain:
Through what merit did Yisrael merit to inherit the land? Through the merit of the mitzva of the omer, about which it says, “When you come to the land…”… The mitzva of the omer should never be light in your eyes, for it was through the mitzva of the omer that Avraham merited to inherit the land of Canaan. This is the meaning of the pasuk, “And I will give it to you and to your children after you” in order that “and you will observe my covenant.” Which [covenant]? This is the mitzva of the omer.1
The connection that this midrash makes between the mitzva of the omer and that of brit mila – the simple reference of the pasuk, “and you will observe my covenant” – is certainly interesting,2 but we will focus on the midrash’s connection between the mitzva of the omer and our rights to Eretz Yisrael. It is notable that the right to this inheritance is not mentioned regarding any other mitzva ha-teluya ba-aretz. Why is the omer in particular connected to our right to the Land?
Entering Eretz Yisrael is likely to lead to a weakening in belief in Hashem and placement of man at the center of activity. The Torah repeatedly warns of this danger before the nation enters the Land:
When you say in your heart, “These nations are greater than me. How shall I conquer them?” Do not fear them. You shall surely remember what Hashem your God did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt… For Hashem your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God… And He will give their kings into your hands… No man shall stand before you.3
Remember the path on which Hashem your God guided you for these forty years… And He afflicted you and made you hungry and fed you the mann… in order to teach you that man does not live on bread alone… For Hashem your God is bringing you to a good land, a land of streams of water… And you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless Hashem your God… Beware lest you forget Hashem your God and do not observe His mitzvot and his laws and his ordinances… Lest you eat and become satiated and you build good houses and settle in them… And your heart becomes haughty and you forget Hashem your God… And you say in your heart, “My strength and the power of my hand have brought me this success.” And you should remember Hashem your God, for He is the one who gives you strength to succeed.4
The Ran notes that the pasuk does not say that Hashem gives us success, but rather that He gives us the strength to succeed – “koach la-asot chayil.”5
How do we remember that it is Hashem our God who gives us the strength to succeed? Through the korban ha-omer, the korban that expresses gratitude and acknowledges the Ribbono Shel Olam’s constant guidance and providence over Yisrael. Chazal teach us:
“And you shall bring the first omer of your harvest to the kohen”… Rav Yanai says: In the normal way of the world, when a person takes one litra of meat from the market, how hard he must work! How much labor he must endure until it is cooked [and ready to eat]. The creations sleep in their beds and Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu blows the winds and raises the clouds and makes the plants sprout and makes the fruits sweet – and all we give him is the reward of the omer!6
Conquering Eretz Yisrael and ruling over it may cause us to lose sight of the message of Hashem’s guidance, the hand of Hashem behind all the processes that lead to victory. While we use our strength and power to conquer the land and govern it, we must always recall who gave us the koach to achieve this chayil. When we were in the desert, the mann fulfilled this role, as it taught us that “man does not live on bread alone, but man lives through the command of Hashem.”7 In Eretz Yisrael, the omer took over this role. The Torah therefore stresses that upon entering the Land, “They ate from the crop of the Land on the day following the Pesach; and the mann ceased on the next day as they ate from the crop of the land, and there was no longer any mann for Bnei Yisrael.”8 Rashi explains that “the day following the Pesach” refers to the day that the omer was offered. After entering Eretz Yisrael, Bnei Yisrael first offered the omer – and only then did the mann stop. Once we have a korban omer to remind us to be grateful to Hashem, there was no longer any need for the mann.