Aside from the obvious answer of that’s just when it happened, that that is when Rabbi Akiva’s students stopped dying, and that it’s also the death date of Rashbi, there is a deeper meaning. Every date on the Jewish calendar has a meaning. Otherwise, where would you get the many different evens that happened on the ninth of Av? Coincidence?
So now that we understand that, why the 33d day of the omer? Why 18th of Iyar?
I like to think of it this way. When you’re doing a really long, really hard project, do you zip through it in one shot? (If you did, it wouldn’t be really hard, would it?) Or do you take a break in the middle, when you’re just over halfway done?
It helps you focus. The worst is over. The rest is fine-tuning. Sure the deadlines coming up, but I can do it now, you think. Unless you’re one of those people who do things at the last minute (ok, I admit it. But this still came out ok, no?) you probably get what I’m saying. Having a break in the middle, whether it’s the middle of the hour, day, week, or month. Just after the middle is best, actually, because once you pass the halfway point, it’s a lot easier to get yourself to start again after taking a break.
So, breaks are good. Why not have one every ten minutes? You work for five or ten minutes, then take a short break, then back to work. If breaks help, than lots of breaks should help more, right? It will take longer, but maybe you’ll do a better job. Here’s why not.
What sometimes helps a person get going? A climber climbing Mount Everest: not climbing because there’s gold at the top, or because they will get something from it. It’s the satisfaction of finishing that’s so important, so amazing, so motivating.
But if you stop to break and celebrate so often, you’ll lose sight of the goal, and you’ll lose your motivation. After all, if you get a party every half hour, why bother going for the real celebration at the end?
That is the lesson of the omer. That when you want to do something, you have to push yourself hard, and go for the gold, but that’s it’s ok to need a boost sometimes. Just be careful that you don’t go backwards by stopping.
May we be zoche to be present at the ultimate giving of the Torah, in the times of Moshiach, אמן, מהרה בימינו !