Sefiras HaOmer and Educating Children

How does the korbon Omer differ from other korbonos (sacrificies)?
While each korbon effects the day on which it is brought or the person offering
it, the korbon Omer triggers a daily counting of 49 days climaxing in the
holiday of Shavuos. Now, the sefer Hachinuch counts the counting of
the Omer and the offering of the korbon Omer as two separate mitzvos.
If so, why are they joined together in the blessing of the Omer?

Chazal tell us that it is not by coincidence that these two mitzvos are joined
together. Whereas the korbon Omer, which is brought of barley – animal food
– represents the low spiritual state of the Jewish people at the time of their exodus
from Egypt, the message of the counting of the Omer is that it is incumbent
upon each Jew to begin to climb the ladder of spirituality until he becomes worthy
of receiving Hashem’s Torah on Shavuos. These days, therefore, between Pesach
and Shavuos and throughout the generations, are meant for serious introspection
and self-improvement.

The lessons we learn for an adult’s growth can be applied as well to a child,
who is also involved in a struggle to overcome the pulls of childhood and to enter
into the world of maturity and responsibility.


Strangely enough, the Omer has no intrinsic name, and is only referred
to by the name of its measurement. This is because the Omer is referring
to another place which shares its name, ie. the “mon” (“heaven-sent bread”)
which is also referred to as an "עומר לגלגולת" – “an Omer per person” (Shemos
16:16). [See Medrash Rabbah Vayikra 28:3.] As one of the main purposes of the “mon”
is to develop a person’s bitachon (trust) in Hashem, our lesson here is that
successful self-improvement is dependent on one’s bitachon in Hashem.

A child should be expected to improve his behavior as he matures. However,
for him to accomplish that he needs to feel secure. In order for a child to admit
a lacking and accept upon himself the need to uproot it, he needs to be sure that
his acceptance will not lower the level of love and respect he receives from the
adults in his charge, whether it be at home or at school. If he feels that an effort
on his part will cause him harm in any form, he will be very hesitant to make a
change or to even admit a lacking, even though he is well aware of it.

Security is one of the primordial needs of a person. The great majority of decisions
a person makes, both consciously and subconsciously, are directed to guard the security
of that person. Most people would rather achieve less and feel more secure, than
to take a chance for a greater level of achievement.

Thus, the mitzvah of bitachon is essential to the proper spiritual function
of a person. And, just as a person learns to honor his Father in shamayim by first
respecting his father here on earth, so too, in order for a child to feel secure
with and trust in Hashem, he must be given a secure environment in his formative


Another lesson to be learned from the connection between the Omer of
mon and the korbon Omer, is that in addition to the effort a person
must put forth in order to refine his characteristics, he must daven to Hashem
that his efforts should bear fruit. Just as the “mon” was heaven-sent, so
too, a person’s success is dependent on tefila which is also heaven-sent. A child
should be encouraged to couple his personal efforts with tefila to Hashem, as the
gemorah (Nida 70b) explains that both are necessary to succeed.

This idea is alluded to in the mitzvah of waving the korbon Omer, as the
posuk says, "והניף את העומר" – “and he (the Cohen) shall wave the Omer”.
Rashi explains that waving includes bringing the Omer forward and backward
and then upward and downward. Forward and backward to ward off bad winds and upward
and downward to ward off damaging dew. In our regard, we can say that moving the
Omer forward and backward is a reference to effort and moving it upward and downward
is a reference to tefila.

Realistic Expectations

The bringing of the korbon Omer is the beginning of the period of character
development, as hinted to in the posuk, "ראשית קצירכם" – “the first cutting
of your crop”. The korbon is of barley — animal food – teaching that at
whatever level a person is on, even the lowest of levels, he must make an honest
appraisal of his spiritual standing if his efforts to improve himself are to succeed.

The same applies when confronting a child’s behavior. A parent must be realistic
about his/her child’s level or standing if he/she wants his/her efforts to have
a positive impact on the child. One who “overlooks” his/her child’s situation so
as not to “rock the boat” or give the child or their family a bad image, may only
be engraining the problem deeper into the child’s neshama. If this approach
continues for too long, the damage may be irreversible.

Educational Goal

As we mentioned above, the Omer is called ראשית – first. However, on the
same day the korbon Omer is brought, we are already counting toward the last
day — Shavuos. Before a person begins to walk on the road to avodas Hashem, he
needs to know where he wants to end up. This is summarized by the prophet, Yeshayahu
(sefer Yeshayahu 46:10), "מגיד מראשית אחרית".

Before a parent or teacher attempts to influence a child to improve his behavior,
learning habits, etc., he should have a definite goal in mind. In addition, and
even more important, is that the child should be clear of what is expected of him.
The clearer a parent or teacher’s message is, the greater the chances the child
will accept it and live up to it.


Shlomo Hamelech tells us, "טוב אחרית דבר מראשיתו" —  — The end
result is better than its beginning. Although we mentioned above that the educational
goal must be clear from the start, a parent or teacher must be patient and only
expect the child to move forward according to his capabilities. This we see as well
in the counting of the Omer – day-by-day; step-by-step. While the goal
can be perfectly clear, it can only be so because it is void of the human element.
The step-by-step movement toward that goal has to take the child’s personality and
capabilities into account.


Just as we count the Omer daily, without a break, so too a parent’s educational
approach should be consistent. This gives the child the message that his parent
knows what he is doing and is committed to succeed in his approach. The time for
a parent to adjust his approach according to the needs of the child is before the
approach is inaugurated. Afterwards, a parent should be definite and consistent.
When a child sees his parent means business, he will usually try and meet his parent’s
expectations of him.


Although a child will listen to his parent or teacher for a number of reasons,
including fear, respect, need for recognition, lack of choice, etc., there is one
reason which bypasses all the rest – desire! A parent and teacher should always
be on the lookout for ways to increase the child’s desire to fulfill that which
is expected of him. Chazal say that one should serve Hashem out of love and not
out of fear, for one who acts out fear is apt to lessen his observance when his
fear wanes. However, one who serves Hashem from love, desires to fulfill
Hashem’s Torah and will only increase his observance over time. This point is alluded
to in the korbon Omer as well, as it is written “לרצונכם "והניף את העומר…
“to wave the Omer with desire”.

The recipe for building up desire for Torah in a child is to give him a measure
of personal pleasure or gain as well. A young child can be given candies, while
an older child will appreciate a gift, while a young man will enjoy an increased
measure of respect.

Developmental Process

we learn from the connection of pesach, omer and shavuos that there are three
elements in one’s development. pesach represents the ridding of an external yoke,
whether it be of another nation, as egypt, or of a friend who monopolizes your time.
the period of the counting of the Omer represents an effort to use that new
found freedom to reach new spiritual heights. Shavuos represents the accepting upon
oneself of a new yoke – that of Hashem!

In education as well, these steps must be followed. First, to undo the affects
of bad influences. Next, to get the child used to a new way of thinking. Then, when
he is ready, he can reach for a new level of commitment.

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