It's not just Barley to Wheat
MIKOL M'LAM'DAI HISKALTI, lit. From all my teachers I gained wisdom. Ben Zoma (Avot 4:1) quotes this (partial) pasuk in T'hillim and derives from it that a wise person learns from everyone (even from his students). The following thought was triggered by SZ of our Women's Beit Midrash and combined with other ideas.
At the Seder, we say that in every generation a person must see himeself as if he came out of Egypt. We each must re-experience the Exodus - not just tell about it to our children. On Shavuot morning, we read in the Torah that on the first of the third month (Sivan) - on THIS day - we came to Sinai. This day? Should it not say BAYOM HAHU, on THAT day? From this we learn (thanks to Rashi) that every day Torah should feel fresh in our eyes as if we received it TODAY.
If we are to internalize and personalize the Exodus and Matan Torah, it follows that we must do the same with the Omer period between Pesach and Shavuot. Bnei Yisrael did not - could not - go straight from Egypt to Mt. Sinai. They were at so low a spiritual level in Egypt; they were at their highest spiritual level at Sinai.
That they (we) were able to do the transition from Egypt to Sinai at all is amazing. And that we did it in seven short weeks is nothing short of miraculous.
It took hard work. The Omer period was an intensive exercise in self- improvement - as individuals and as a nation.
In Kabala, each of the seven weeks and each day of each week is assigned a QUALITY. The combination of the week's and the day's qualities form 49 different spiritual challenges, tasks, goals.
In the third (and final) post-counting passage that some people say and many do not, there is a petition to G-d to help in the rectifying of specific defects of the soul that match the S'FIRA of each day. We ask to be cleansed and sanctified with G-d's holiness...
Asking is easy. But there is no hocus pocus, presto - you are cleansed and you are holy. That all takes effort. Lots of effort.
Whether or not we understand anything about the "official" S'FIROT of each day, there is a down-to- earth way that we can personalize and internalize the Omer Challenge.
When you count the Omer each night or when you are about to go to sleep or when you wake in the morning - think of one thing you are going to improve about yourself. Today, I will say brachot a little slower, with more kavana. Tomorrow, I will make that extra effort to be a little more patient with my spouse, my children, my parents, my co-workers, my employees, my boss. This day will be the one that I learn 15 extra minutes of Torah. Or read a chapter of Tanach that I haven't studied. Or it will be the day I give more tzedaka than I usually do and with a more pleasant attitude than I usually have. Today, I will do something nice for someone I don't care for too much. Tomorrow morning I will start being less wasteful of my precious time.
In this way, our counting of the Omer will not just be a memory exercise; it will be a self-improvement program. It will help us really relive the experience of Y'TZI'AT MITZRAYIM - not just as a release from physical bondage but as a liberation of soul that facilitates spiritual growth and development. In this way, we can be ready and worthy to stand at Sinai on our own and in our own time, and receive the Torah anew.
As stated in the Torah, we are to count from the day of the bringing of the barley offering to the day we offer the Two Loaves made from wheat.
But S'firat HaOmer is not just a journey from barley to wheat. It is not just a lesson in Jewish History of over 3000 years ago. If we do more than count, if we also change for the better with each day that goes by, then we will be doing our share in bringing about the full ingathering of the exiles, the full restoration of Torah, Mitzvot, and Values to all of Israel, the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the Mikdash. This you can count on!