On Monday, a reenactment of a special Temple service was held in Jerusalem on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade. To a casual observer, it resembled a country fair. Families gathered for a pleasant afternoon, children gawked at displays of goats and produce, while the main event, a bake-off, featured two very unusual looking loaves of bread. It became clear this was not your normal gathering of farmers when bearded men in flowing white robes began to blow on long silver trumpets.
This full-dress reenactment of the Omer offering was an essential part of preparing for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, bringing it closer in the most practical ways.
On the first night after Passover, Jews begin counting the Omer, marking off seven complete weeks and culminating in the holiday of Shavuot (Festival of Weeks), which this year took place on June 12. Most people associate the holiday with celebrating the day on which Jewish tradition holds God gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai, but the festival looked very different in the days of the Temple.
The Bible commands Jews to bring two loaves of bread on Shavuot to the Temple. Made from the choicest wheat, which was ground and sifted twelve times before being baked, it was brought as a thanksgiving “wave offering” along with two lambs, as a central aspect of the national holiday.
Rabbi Yaakov Savir led the reenactments of the Omer offerings this year in Jerusalem. He told Breaking Israel News that the reenactments are essential to preparing for the Third Temple, because they teach the priests about the practical details of performing the special commandments.
“Despite the detailed descriptions in Rabbinic literature, every time we re-enact the rituals we discover something,” he explained. “The two loaves are the only grain offerings brought to the Temple made from leavened bread. All of the other grain offering are flat, pan breads, usually fried in oil. Even the Show Bread that was always present in the Temple, despite being quite large, was essentially matzah, unleavened bread.
The reenactment of the Temple service reconnected the modern holiday of Shavuot with its agricultural roots as Chag Hakatzir, the Harvest Festival. Rav Hillel Weiss, secretary of the Nascent Sanhedrin and an organizer of the event, told Breaking Israel News that this aspect of the holiday is more relevant today than ever, noting the connection between modern Israel and agriculture.
He also noted the nationalistic aspect of the holiday. “Today, our right to the land is being brought into question and history is being re-written. It is written in Vayikra Rabbah (a homiletic collection of teachings on subjects covered in Leviticus) that Abraham merited the land of Israel because of the Omer offering. It is important to express that our religion is agriculture in its essence with holiness emanating from the land and its bounty.”
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