Spark: The Omer represents the process of Jewish history unfolding. It is a time we journeyed as a people from slavery, to freedom, and to being in covenant with God. But the Omer journey didn’t just happen in the Torah: important events in our history and of Israel happen during this auspicious time. It is a time of appreciating that journey, and looking forward to the next step.
Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Yerushalayim, Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, all fall during the Omer period. These days represent the most significant events that have happened to the people and land of Israel in the 20th century. It is an auspicious time of joy and sadness, victory and defeat.
A time of sadness: “Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students…and all of them died in one period of time because they did not conduct themselves with respect towards one another…they all died between Pesach and Shavuot… and they all died a terrible death. – Yevamot 62b
The practice is not to get married between Passover and Shavuot – until Lag B’Omer, because during this time the students of Rabbi Akiva perished. (Shulchan Aruch, 493:1)
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Aruch HaShulchan 493:1 – [Paraphrased] – The tragedy of Rabbi Akiva and his students is connected with the crusades, pogroms, blood libels, and other persecutions that Jews have faced throughout history.
…The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations….
Declaration of the State of Israel: PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE “ROCK OF ISRAEL”, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION AT THIS SESSION OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE, ON THE SOIL OF THE HOMELAND, IN THE CITY OF TEL-AVIV, ON THIS SABBATH EVE, THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 (20th day of the Omer).
Rav Kook: Mamarey HaReaya A. (p-67)
Building up a country and agriculture are the main foundation of life. For all other nations these elements are just a simple necessity, but Am Israel’s entire life is Holiness, and its country and its language and all of its values are holy, and this nation fills all of humanity with holiness and as result its agriculture is also absorbed with holiness. This idea expressed by the bringing the Omer sacrifice that we celebrate with the first produce that is brought to the temple, the first connection between heaven and earth.