Pages of Our Lives: Sefiras HaOmer
Translated and Adapted by Braha Bender
There are two different kinds of calendars: calendars where each page is ripped away to reveal the new date day after day, and calendars where the plans, scheduling, and notes about what’s going on every day are saved in a thick planner.
These two types of calendars are a good metaphor for two different ways of life. The extent of the difference between them is revealed only at the end of the year. The first, with pages all ripped away and discarded, leaves you with nothing. The second, if filled with plans for worthwhile activities and undertakings, leaves you with a valuable record of a meaningful life.
Every year, when faced with the need to throw out my old planner and buy a new one, I hesitate. Though I am iexcited about the prospect of filling new, fresh, blank pages with my day-to-day adventures, I am loathe to simply discard what may be an inimitable record of a period of time that will never come again.
Though planners may need to be discarded, the days of our life do not. We can save, cherish, and relish every memory making us who we are today -- if that is our attitude towards living. On the other hand, if all life is about is counting down towards an ever-elusive goal, throwing the pages of our present away like so much useless garbage, we lose a lot more than a calendar. We miss out on living.
The forty-nine-day period between Pesach, when the Jews left Egypt, and Shavuos, when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, is called Sefiras HaOmer. During Sefiras HaOmer, it is a mitzvah to count each day out loud: “Today is the twentieth day, which is two weeks and six days of the Omer“; “Today is the twenty-first day, which is three weeks of the Omer“, etc.
The question everybody asks is, if we’re counting down to the giving of the Torah, why don’t we count from forty-nine down to one? Ten-nine-eight…three-two-one-BLAST OFF! Why do we count up from one until forty-nine instead?
The answer has a lot to do with the metaphor about the calendars. Receiving the Torah was a mighty event, but it only had meaning for every Jew to the extent that he prepared himself for it. The same applies to us today. The Midrash explains that we are to count, as the Torah commands, “’Seven perfect weeks’ -- When are they perfect? When Israel perform the will of the Almighty.” Sefiras HaOmer is not an arbitrary count-down to pass the time until the big day arrives. Sefiras HaOmer is a time to count every day by making every day count.
The Jewish People are compared to a bride. Our wedding took place at Mount Sinai. The groom was the Almighty. We are eternally bound together by the Torah that He gave us. Like a bride eagerly counting the day until her wedding, we eagerly count every day until the day of the giving of the Torah arrives. Another benefit to starting our counting with smaller numbers is that it makes the wait seem a little shorter.
Every day and every week filled with meaning and value brings us closer to Sinai. The pages of our life are waiting to be filled, saved, and cherished. What are we waiting for? This moment will never come again. Don’t just rip it out and throw it away -- make today count.