The gematria of middah is 49. This is very logical as it’s a person’s middot that determines whether he is on the 39th level of tumah or tahara, ritual impurity or purity.
The fact that the 49 notion falls out on the period of Counting the Omer, Sefirat HaOmer, is very logical based on an idea expressed by Rabbi Biderman shlita. He says that the middle mitzvah in the Torah is Sefirat HaOmer, a time to work on middot and perfect one’s character. Therefore, a middah – in concordance with 49 - should be perfected at this time.
It’s true that G-d did the work in terms of redeeming us from Egypt when we reached the 49 levels of tumah, but that was a divine intervention whereas, the middah, that measures who we are, takes place with us taking the initiative and counting.
The fact that a middah measures our status comports with the Midrash (Vayikrah Rabbah 1:15) that says, “even a dead animal is better than a talmid chacham who lacks wisdom, da’at.” This is line with the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (4:12) that says, “Rabbi Shimon says: ‘[There are] three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship and the crown of a good name rises higher than them.’”
We are preparing for Matan Torah, yet as far as we get in that realm, it is still trumped by good middot.
I heard the flowing story relayed to me by my wife who heard it from Rav Avrohom Shulman, Rav of Congregation Beth Shalom in Passaic, New Jersey and maggid shiur at the Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy.
A large chareidi family was taking a trip in in Eretz Yisroel. They budgeted their expenses in a way that they only had a certain amount to spend. At one point, the son had to go to the bathroom, and they found a nearby restaurant. The father walked in to the eating establishment and asked the waitress if it would be okay to use the bathroom and she said it was fine. Upon exiting the bathroom, the owner, who knew nothing of what the waitress said, started to berate them and hurl insults at them, expressing that they fit into the typical chareidi stereotype of using other people for their own needs.
At that moment, the father had to think how to respond. He thought to himself what would Rav Avrohom Genechovsky zt” l do in such a case. He then said to the owner that his family was in fact eating at the restaurant and his family was coming in.
After some time, the owner found out that the waitress had given them permission and that the only reason the father brought his family in to eat, though he couldn’t afford it, was to protect the dignity of this waitress. The owner apologized profusely and covered all of the meal expenses.
A kiddush Hashem resulted. This is an example of someone exercising exemplary middot that could give him a score of 49 immediately.
This story reminded me of another story of Rav Avrohom Genechovsky zt”l that shows how sometimes split-second decisions change the whole fate of a person. Rav Avrohom zt” l’s parents emigrated to Eretz Yisroel. They way they became olim was quite extraordinary. While visiting Eretz Yisorel one time, it was the second day of yom tov. Rav Avrohom zt”l’s mother, Gita Genechovsky a”h, suddenly took out her purse and bought something. Her husband was astonished as it was still yom tov. Gita a”h proclaimed that they are now residents of Eretz Yisroel and therefore the second day is no longer yom tov. Instant decisions can bring transformative results, just as that father made an instant decision to create a major kiddush Hashem.
There was a rav who once said that if you are mevater, waive insisting on being right, you will always win. That seems like a good piece of advice during this time period, during Sefirah that is the center mitzvah of the Torah - and everything else dovetails off it.