This is why the counting of the Omer commences on the day after the first day of Pesach. Counting the Omer symbolizes our ability to raise ourselves to greater heights, an ability granted to us only after the physical exodus was complete.
The Torah uses two indicators of when the count begins: “From the morrow of the rest day” and “From the day when you bring the Omer of the waving.” Why do we count from “the Omer” and not “from the morrow of the rest day” (e.g. why do we say “Today is the third day of the Omer” and not “Today is the third day from the morrow of the rest day”)?
Rabbi Alpert explains that time is the greatest gift one possesses. Our mastery of time is symbolized by bringing the Korban Omer. It was brought from the first barley growths of that season and initiated the count that culminated with Shavuos. On Shavuos the first wheat-growths of the season were used for the special offering of the Shtei haLechem (two loaves of bread). The Omer count symbolizes our desire to transform random days into collective weeks and our ability to convert mundane hours into holy units of time. It is time utilized for introspection and spiritual growth.
The extent of one’s celebration on the holiday of Shavuos is wholly contingent on how much preparation one has expended. Therefore, the name of the holiday is “Shavuos– weeks” referring to the seven weeks that are counted, preceding the holiday.
While I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the following letter written by an 83-year-old woman, its message is poignant:
I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more time with my family and friends and less time working.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure. I’m trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.
I’m not “saving” anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom.
I wear my good blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries. I’m not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.
“Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now!
I’m not sure what others would’ve done had they known they wouldn’t be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted. I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences. I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food was. I’m guessing; I’ll never know.
It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry, because I hadn’t written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days. Angry and sorry, that I didn’t tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them.
I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special.
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.
So often our days seem to be a blur of mundane triteness. We get stuck in our proverbial chairs and can’t get past our present state of living, despite our lofty dreams and aspirations. The process of inertia takes its toll and, before we know it, days become wasted weeks, weeks become wasted years.
The counting of the Omer comes to “seize us by the collar.” It encourages us to jiggle out of chairs by any means necessary in order to seek the fulfillment we truly desire.
About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.
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