The most precious gift we receive from our Creator is the gift of time. The man in the street may declare that "time is money", but he is mistaken. Time is far more valuable than money; it is life itself.
Money can be transferred to others; it comes and goes. No one can give even his dearest friend another year to live. And no fortune, no matter how great, can purchase another day or week of life for a dying man. Yet the time we do receive from G-d is given to us without payment of any kind.
Consequently, it behooves man to be fully aware of the value of time. How easy it is to let the hours and minutes slip through our fingers, to be lost forever! Time is the easiest commodity to waste; we don't even have to get up and go to the garbage can in order to "throw it out." It goes by without any effort on our part, never to return.
Not everyone uses the time allotted him with the same degree of efficiency. Someone who fills his days wisely, will derive pleasure and satisfaction from reviewing the accomplishments of the past. Not so, he who fritters away his days seeking fleeting pleasures of the moment. He finds no gratification in reviewing the "accomplishments" of days gone by, which he whiled away, "killing time." In truth, he destroyed not the time which Heaven allotted him, but himself.
Such a person tends to focus only on the future. He imagines to himself what further "pleasures" he can plan, what new pastimes he can engage in so that the days and weeks will pass by quickly.
We find an expression of this approach to life in the fact that Western cultures hold youth in higher regard than the elderly and wise. The hoary-haired citizens of the West are by and large no longer fit to partake of the material pleasures of this world. The knowledge they have accumulated through their life-experiences find no favor in the eyes of the young, who hunger for pleasure, not wisdom. Pensioners who adapt the materialistic outlook of the modern world feel that their days are empty and worthless, since they are now limited in their capability to pursue physical pleasures.
In contrast, the spiritual world views the elderly with great respect, in admiration of their accomplishments over the years. It is the elderly who constitute civilization's greatest reserves of the wisdom and insight to be gained only through experience.
When the time comes for man to pass from this world to the next, he takes with him only those days which he utilized for Torah, mitzvos, and good deeds. Time spent pursuing earthly pleasures for their own sake is left behind, lost forever.
When faced with the stark facts of his lifetime record, one who whiled away his days and years is overcome with regret. He might have done so much more, had he only utilized his time more constructively. Those who used their time constructively can look back on his lifetime with satisfaction and contentment.
Once man finds himself in the World of Truth, it is too late to correct his mistakes. We need to be made aware of the value of time here, and now, in this world.
Therefore, the Torah gives us a commandment, a mitzvah, which teaches us the value of time. This mitzvah is Sefiras Ha'Omer, the counting of the days between the first day of Pesach and the holiday of Shavuos, when we stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.
This is an interval of seven weeks. On each of these forty-nine days, we count the days and weeks which have gone by. Each year, on the fiftieth day, Shavuos, the Jewish People again commemorate the Giving of the Torah. The intervening days serve as a period of preparation for accepting the Torah once again.
These days are particularly dear to us; we can attain great spiritual treasures by exploiting them to the fullest. Therefore the Torah commanded us to count these days, that we be aware of the great gift they represent – time – and use it to the utmost to achieve accomplishments of permanent value, which will remain ours for eternity.