This week's parsha begins with the laws concerning the elevated status of Kohanim. It is hard not to have a tingling of jealousy for those born on such a pedestal. What makes them better than us? Perhaps the following will help give us a healthier perspective.
Parshas Emor concludes with the Moadim. Among them is Sefiras Ha'omer. The Nesivos Shalom points out a number of difficulties. Why aren't the details of this time period clearly stated, instead of being written in the obscure form of "Mimacharas HaShabbos" (the second day of Pesach, as explained in the gemara)? Why does the holiday of Pesach have the unique status of being referred to as Shabbos as well? The parsha also doubles its reference to Mimachras HaShabbos - why? These questions are answered by the Nesivos Shalom. Before we bring down the Nesivos Shalom's beautiful thoughts, let us focus on a comment of the Ramban.
The Ramban notes that the counting of Sefira for 49 days, and the counting of 49 years leading up to Yovel in the 50th share a common purpose. What is it?
A possible explanation can be found in the words of the Meshech Chochma in this week's parsha. The Meshech Chochma writes that there is a clear distinction between Shabbos/Shemitta and Yovel. The Kedusha of Shemitta and Shabbos is independent of the Jewish People. Shabbos and Shemitta will occur regardless. Yovel, however only occurs with the blowing of Shofar, freeing the slaves, and returning land to its original owners. Its level of holiness is similar to Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh which depend on the sanctification of Beis Din/the Jewish People of the new month to establish the dates of Rosh Chodesh and the Moadim. Therefore Yovel, with its freeing of slaves, is rooted in the fundamentals of the leaving of Egypt. This explanation seems to contradict a clear parsha in the Torah, that repeatedly refers to the first day of Pesach, the day we left Egypt, as Shabbos (Mimacharas HaShabbos), not a Yom Tov!?!
Now we can return the Nesivos Shalom. The Nesivos Shalom explains that there are in fact two "50"s. The 50 that includes the first day of Pesach, and the 50 that includes the day of the giving of the Torah. However, they are fundamentally one and the same. The miracles and revelation of Hashem on the first day of Pesach put the Jewish People on a level that had no connection to where they were really holding. It showed them their potential. Afterwards their job was to move toward their potential, a process of 49 days. This period was followed by the acquiring of Torah from above, not a direct outcome of their labor - rather in merit of their work. This demonstrated that although we may put in the effort, ultimately it all comes from Hashem. The beginning and ending of Sefira with Shabbos (Pesach with its facet of Shabbos, and concluding with the gift of Torah on Shabbos, the day of the week of Matan Torah) reminds of the true freedom of mind that comes with the realization that everything begins and ends with Hashem. Starting in the "pits" and ending up in the most elevated place, both realities carry the sanctity of Shabbos. Having the deepest Emunah and working on both in the hardest spiritually and easiest of times, brings a person back and close to his Creator. All the "ups and downs" are from Hashem, and are rooted in the concept of Shabbos (Heaven imposed sanctity).
The above idea ties Yovel to Sefira, as seen from a Zohar quoted by the Meshech Chochma. The Zohar in Parsha Tetzveh says the words "b'shnas chamishim tashuvu" allude to the world of teshuva, and the world that Torah came from. The Zohar goes on to explain that through the counting of 49, representing the 49 facets to Torah, one merits "Bina" - the ability to truly understand Torah. This process began with "v'chamushim alu b'nei Yisroel" (see Rashi's commentary at the beginning of Parshas Beshalachfor the simple meaning), which the Zohar explains that the word "chamushim" hints to chamishim, 50, that the whole process of leaving Egypt was only because of the 50th day on which they would receive the Torah. Both Sefira and Yovel are rooted in the world of leaving bondage for true freedom.
The author of the above Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, truly reflected all that was written before. With a level dedication of Emuna and Bitachon above and beyond the norms of his time, he merited an understanding of Torah unknown to anyone of his time. He lived in the world of Shabbos, the day of emunah and bitachon that everything is from Hashem. He demonstrated that the last halacha of the Rambam in the laws of Shemitta and Yovel was truly possible (the Rambam writes that not only Sheivet Levi, but anyone who chooses to fully devote himself to Hashem, Hashem will provide for him as He did for the kohanim and leviim.) Knowing that the level of Kehuna is a reality for everyone, changes one's perspective of the pedestal that the Kohein is placed on. Because if one really understands what it means to be a kohein, that everything is ultimately from Hashem, he can embark on that journey to be part of the "portion of Hashem." You just have to believe it!