Perek Shira: The Song of the Barley Stalk
by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines
The barley stalk says: “A prayer of the poor man as he bends over, and he pours out his supplication before Hashem” (Tehillim 102:1).
The barley grain is associated with lowliness.It is bare of chaff and appears uncovered and unprotected, resembling a poor man. It is appropriate for animal fodder, but not for bread that is fit for human beings. Yet, it is with this very inferiority that the barley stalk sings of the ideal stance of the supplicant: humble, vulnerable, and dependent upon Hashem, like “a poor man as he bends over, and before Hashem he pours out his supplication.”
Barley is not offered in the Beit Hamikdash, except to symbolize a lowly and unrefined state, such as for the Omer offering immediately following Pesach that marks the beginning of the count leading up to Shavuot. The seven weeks of this count is a transitory period of national purification in preparation for the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot, similar to how one contaminated as a zav must count seven days of purification. Whenever we bring an offering, we are humbling ourselves, and this is especially so regarding the lowly Omer offering. Therefore, the first step in quest to refine ourselves is to humble ourselves through this offering.
- Sources: Kol Rinah; Shem MiShmuel (Shemini)
*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib