Will Gotkin is a regular contributor to Gather the Jews.
I hope everyone had a great Pesach. If you are suffering from post-holiday blues, do not despair! Starting from the second night of Pesach we already started counting down until the next major Jewish holiday – Shavuos! Shavuos celebrates the receiving of the Torah. The Torah is what defines us as Jews and gives our lives meaning and purpose. It also establishes our connection to G-d. No wonder we eagerly count down the days until we finally get it! When the Jewish people received the Torah we truly became a nation. One would think that this holiday would be widely observed, but sadly it is often unheard of among a large segment of American Jewry. However, that will change in a few weeks (article on Shavuos soon to come). For now, let us discuss the count-down – or perhaps count-up would be more appropriate as we shall see.
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Emor, the Jewish people were issued the commandment of Sefiras HaOmer (Counting of the Omer) which we perform during the 49 days between the second day of Pesach and Shavuos. Upon leaving Egypt the Jewish people were told that they would be receiving the Holy Torah in seven weeks’ time so naturally they counted down the days with great anticipation. As has been discussed before, Jewish holidays never merely commemorate a historical event. Rather every holiday celebrates a reoccurring theme of the Jewish experience. The spiritual potential that existed any time we commemorate reappears each year. Just as our ancestors counted with excitement until they received the Torah so we also should use this time to get more excited about Torah and mitzvahs. This is a special time on the Jewish calendar for introspection and a renewed effort at personal growth. We use this time to make ourselves vessels to receive the Torah. If you have been curious to learn more about your Jewish heritage now is a great time to start looking into it. Also, if you haven’t started counting yet, why not begin tonight? Take a siddur or ask a rabbi and start your count-down (without the preliminary bracha)! It takes 2 seconds and you will be fulfilling a positive mitzvah.
During each day of Sefiras HaOmer we do not only count the new day, but the previous days as well. For example, instead of saying ‘Today is the second day of the Omer,’ we say ‘Today is two days of the Omer’ and on the third day we say ‘Today is three days of the Omer’ and so on. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that we do this, because our mitzvos and good deeds accumulate from day to day. Every day we ascend to new spiritual heights until we have finally refined ourselves enough to receive the Torah. It’s not too late to begin your counting now (starting from the day we are up to in the count) just as it is never too late to start coming closer to G-d. So what are you waiting for? Start counting! Your precious heritage of Torah awaits you.