We are currently in the last few weeks of counting the omer. The ‘omer’ is a measure of grain, but according to the Torah, it also the measure we use to count the days between Passover and Shavuot.
According to this week’s Torah portion, from Leviticus 23:15-16:
טו וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה.
|15 From the day after the day of rest – that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving – you shall count seven full,
טז עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם; וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה, לַיהוָה.
|16 until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to the LORD.
From the “day after the first day of rest” during Passover, we are to count seven full weeks (i.e. ‘Shavuot’) … 49 days … leading up to the holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot is the only day without a described date in the Torah. Whereas other Jewish holidays, like Passover for example, are associated with a particular date on the Jewish calendar, only Shavuot must be deciphered. It is calculated by counting these days of the omer, so that we arrive at Shavuot on the 50th day. That is why Shavuot is called in Greek, and therefore in most New Testament translations, Pentecost, because it refers to the fiftieth day.
Although there are, of course, disagreements when to begin the counting, particularly over what the Torah means by the “first day of rest,” the Jewish community today understands this to mean the first day of Passover. Therefore, “the day after the first day of rest” is the evening which begins the second day of Passover.
There were two primary grain harvests, or Firstfruits, in Ancient Israel – the barley harvest, which fell during Pesach, and the wheat harvest, which is Shavuot. According to Leviticus 23:14, we are not allowed to eat any grain until an offering of the first fruits of our harvest was brought before HaShem.
On Shavuot we celebrate three distinct events:
- The giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai
- The Renewal of that Covenant as described in Jeremiah 31
- And the sealing of that renewal of the Torah through the outpouring of the Spirit (as described in the Prophets and fulfilled in Acts 2)
The giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai was the ultimate event between G-d and the Jewish people – wherein G-d chose Israel and formed a special relationship with us.
As followers of Yeshua, we speak all the time about a New Covenant – but what does that mean? And what does that especially mean for us as Jews??? After all, the first reference to a New Covenant does not all of a sudden show up in Mathew Chapter 1, but rather is first referenced in Jeremiah 31:30-36.
What is the covenant that is being Renewed?
The subject of Jeremiah’s prophesy is the Torah – a renewal of the covenant made at Mt. Sinai with the Jewish people. What is different is that Jeremiah prophesies the Torah will become internalized and experienced in a greater way (think John 1).
The New Covenant – or better translated – the Renewed Covenant – is not some brand-new replacement of the Torah – but the intensification and internalization of the Torah. This includes a renewed Israel which is then empowered to fulfill our role of being Or L’Goyim – a Light to the Nations!
The renewal of the Torah described in Jeremiah 31 is not a replacement of, but a renewal of the covenant.
What is the sign of this Covenant Renewal?
The fulfillment of this promise of a Renewed Covenant was incarnated, realized and fulfilled through Yeshua (John 1), and the sealing of that covenant-renewal was the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2.
In a description similar to the giving of the Torah back at Mt. Sinai, the Spirit was poured out upon the early followers of Yeshua who were gathered together on the Temple mount … in fulfillment of exactly what Yeshua promised:
“For you will receive power when the Ruach HaKodesh comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses both in Yerushalayim and in all of Yehudah and Shomron, even to the ends of the earth! (Acts 1:8)”
This outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2 takes place on Shavuot for a reason – it is the sealing of that covenant-renewal promised in Jeremiah 31.
So how does the Torah and the Spirit work together?
Throughout the writings of the Biblical Prophets and the Brit Chadasha, the Spirit and the Torah are meant to go together. There is no dichotomy between the Torah and the Spirit. A great example of this is Ezekiel 36:22-28, where G-d describes what this renewal will look like:
- Being filled with the Spirit
- Being back in the Land
- and living in covenant-faithfulness to HaShem.
This is the Spiritual Restoration of the Jewish People!
According to Ezekiel 37:14, this is the Jewish people’s purpose for existing – to Kiddush HaShem – to sanctify the Name of HaShem:
“It is not for your purposes O’ Israel … but for mine!”
According to Ezekiel (and many other places in the Bible) the purpose of the Spirit is to enable us to live according to the Torah … to observe the commands and ordinances of HaShem. So as we prepare ourselves for Shavuot during the counting of the omer, let’s keep in mind that HaShem continues to renew creation and that through Yeshua, the Torah that was given to us on Mt. Sinai became incarnated, dwelled among us, and we will once again behold His glory!