The days of the Counting of the Omer are a period of anticipation when we look forward to the coming Shavuos festival.
Like a bride who longingly counts the days and weeks remaining until her marriage, so do the Jewish People eagerly prepare for the day of their espousal to their Creator.In their enthusiasm, they count each passing day.
When a person eagerly awaits a coming event, it is customary to count the days which yet intervene."In another twenty-three days," announces David, "I'm leaving on a tour around the world."A week later, he declares that his departure will take place "in another sixteen days."
The Sages instructed us to count the Omer in the opposite direction; we note how many days have already passed, not how many yet remain.We start out by saying not "Just forty-nine days to go," but: "Today is one day of the Omer."
Two and a half weeks later, we count: "Today is seventeen days, which are two weeks and three days of the Omer."
We continue to count the days that have gone by, until we reach the fiftieth day, Shavuos, the Festival of the Giving of the Torah.Over the entire seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuos, we maintain this pattern, keeping track of how much time has gone by, not how much remains ahead of us.
Why should this be so?
The rabbis taught us a wonderful, encouraging lesson by designating this method of counting the Omer.Had we started out by saying "Another forty-nine (or forty-eight, forty-seven) days to go" we might easily have become discouraged.What a long time to wait!How impatient we might become!
By reversing the process, we look at the process positively.Our reckoning moves forward, builds up, from one day to , making it easier to maintain our anticipation for a full seven weeks.
But there is much more to be learned from this method of counting the Omer.The Scriptures tell us that the weeks that lead up to the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah should be "complete" and perfect.Our Sages teach us:
"Seven complete weeks.When are they 'perfect'?When Israel fulfills the will of their Creator."
The word "perfection" has a double meaning.It pertains to both the weeks that are counted, and to the Jewish People, who note their passing.
We can understand this concept more easily by referring to two types of calendars. One has a single day on each page, which is torn away and thrown out on the morrow.
A second type shows a full week on each page.Each Sunday morning, we fold back one page and slip it through the slot at the top of the calendar.There's no need to tear off one page in order to see the next one.Another feature of the weekly calendar is blank space next to each day where we can record important activities and appointments.At the end of the year, it serves as a concise diary of the events that fill our days and weeks.
At the end of the year, there is a striking difference between the two types of calendars.The daily one has lost all its pages.What remains of it?Only the cardboard backing, which no doubt will soon follow the path its pages took to the nearest wastepaper basket.
Not so the weekly calendar.Its pages are still all there, neatly folded back, but intact.Not one is missing.
What is more, they are filled in with a record of activity and accomplishment. Hopefully, these days and weeks are "complete" and full. We can go through them, review the events listed on them, and feel gratified that we accomplished something with our days, weeks and months. These are "complete weeks" – wisely used, and a source of satisfaction.
Some people live their lives following the pattern of the daily calendar.They wait for each day to pass, then "tear off" one page, and go impatiently to the next.They pay no heed to the fact that with each passing day, their calendars – and lives – grow thinner.They are content to let their page-days slip through their fingers and land in the wastepaper basket without recording any significant events on them.
Others realize the significance of the pages of their life-calendar, and diligently fill them with meaningful deeds and experiences.Their weeks will be "complete"; G-d will be happy with them, for they have used the time He gives them to grow and to help others grow.
Those who "fill the pages of their calendars" year after year have nothing to be ashamed of even after decades have gone by.On the contrary, they will derive deep pleasure and gratification from reviewing their accomplishments.Such persons are deserving of admiration and commendation.
The Torah tells us that the seven weeks leading up to the Giving of the Torah on Shavuos should be "complete" – replete with accomplishment.If so, we cannot simply tear off each daily page in turn, and declare: "Twenty more days, nineteen more days, eighteen more days" and so forth.
We must take the days – and their accomplishments – with us, going from one to two to ten and twenty and so forth, until we arrive at a full forty-nine days: Seven complete weeks of constructive living that we bring with us to the foot of Mount Sinai.
We count the days– upward – to help us remember: The right direction to take is not down, but upward and onward, toward ever higher goals.
Only by adding one full day to the next, one week of significant action to another, can we arrive fully prepared at the festival of the Giving of Our Torah.