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  • Jenna Maio

Step by Step: Freedom Is a Process

Why do we count the days between Pesach and Shavuos? The Nesivos Shalom teaches that the Omer helps us to continue the process of freedom which begins on Pesach and culminates in Shavuos. How so?

On Pesach, the Jewish people physically left the land of Egypt. However, the impurity of Egyptian culture was still part of us. Hashem gave us seven weeks to purify ourselves; to spiritually free ourselves from Egypt. Only then did we merit to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai on Shavuos, which was the culmination of “Yetzias Mitzrayim.” (Leaving Egypt)

The Nesivos Shalom states so beautifully: “The attainment of ‘freedom’ encapsulates more than just a release from bondage, but more significantly, an emergence from the grip of Mitzrayim’s spiritual devastation to a state of sanctity and closeness to Hashem. This process is reactivated every year at this time, and it culminates with Shavuos- Zman Mattan Toraseinu (The time of giving of the Torah)…as Chazal state, The only one considered truly free is someone who involves himself in Torah study.[1]

The Omer is a special opportunity to free ourselves from our own personal Mitzrayim, from the things that are holding us back from being truly free. It is interesting that our Sages teach that only one who is involved in Torah study is truly free. However, if one is familiar with Torah study and its effect on a person, it makes sense. The Torah teaches us how to navigate this physical world so that we can elevate it rather than be enslaved to it. This avodah (service) necessitates a lifetime of work, but it is why we are here.

The Omer is a time when we can work on freeing ourselves spiritually from the things that enslave us. Materialism. Food addiction. Fear. Anxiety. Laziness. Whatever it is. It can feel overwhelming to try to free ourselves from things that feel so oppressive. Yet the fact that we count each day signals that this process happens step by step, day by day.

Rebbetzin Sharon Shenker a”h, one of my Rebbetzins and teachers, recently passed away tragically. Anyone who knew her can testify to her positive presence, her smile, and her sense of humor. She was not bogged down by the fear and anxiety that plagues so many of us from reaching our potential. She joyfully lived to help others and to teach Torah. She lived a life of true freedom; I saw it firsthand.

Rebbetzin Shenker helped me to overcome certain anxieties that I grappled with for years, like driving on the highway. She told me, “I want you to get on the highway, drive one exit, then get off.” I came back and told her I did it. “Good,” she said, “Now next time do two exits.”

I followed her advice and little by little, my anxiety in this area dwindled. Her wisdom was in taking small steps; the same approach available to us now during the Omer.

Rebbetzin Shenker loved to say, “You are capable of doing difficult things.” She was right; it is just a matter of whether we are willing to show up to do the work. The Omer is the perfect time to start. We can pick one small thing to work on, day by day, so that when we reach Shavuos, we can feel a bit freer.

For the Aliyah neshama of Shayna Lia bas Yehuda Zerach

[1] Gems From the Nesivos Shalom, Sefirat HaOmer, p. 532


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