Making Your Life Count
The Purple Sheet
Shabbat Parshat Bamidbar/Shavuot– 10th-13th 2016 – ה’ סיון תשע’ו
Making Your Life Count
As we approach the holiday of Shavuot (which begins Saturday night) we come to a close of the mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer, counting the Omer. Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller of Jerusalem notes that the commandment to count the Omer is “one of the more curious prescriptions of the Torah”. We are told to count the 49 days between Passover – the day of the Exodus from Egypt, and Shavuot – the day the Israelites received the Torah at Sinai. But the simple fact of the matter is the number of days between these two historical events never changes – it always is the same 49 days. As such, the counting cannot be seen as a practical exercise to determine an event but must be an effort in which the process, in and of itself, is meaningful.
The word for number in Hebrew is mispar. Its root is closely related to the word for “story” – sipur. As Hebrew is a language referred to as Lashon HaKodesh, a holy language, the relationship between these two words isn’t arbitrary.
When you think about it, the two are inextricably linked for a number of events is what creates a story. There is a beginning in which the characters are introduced, a middle in which some sort of conflict and challenges take place, and an end in which there is resolution. This is as opposed to a random anthology of events which tells nothing, certainly not a story, but is merely a blog – chaotic musings with no linear path.
Our lives flow by so quickly that we frequently lose sight of the spectacular events of our own stories. The blending of today into tomorrow and subsequent days is subtle enough for us to lose awareness of beginnings, middles and ends. We go about doing things day in and day out and pay little attention to the slight changes along the way.
Sefirat HaOmer remedies this as the act of counting teaches us to be mindful of the greater picture and not to lose sight of the overall perspective in the daily grind of detail. Counting gives us the ability to open our hearts and minds to hear and see the drama in our own lives; to listen to our own stories.
This takes place from two perspectives. Nationally, the Israelites became defined as a people during those initial crucial days between Pesach and Shavuot. Freedom was granted on Pesach, but a national definition did not take place until the end of the 49-day process when they received the Torah from God on Shavuot. It was an epic event that transformed the Jewish people and all of mankind forever. And yet even then, as it was taking place, some of the people could not fathom the significance of their moment in history as they became lost in the petty details of unexciting food and other inconsequential issues, complaining the whole way to Sinai. The greatest story was being written and they could not appreciate that they were the main characters in it.
The same holds true on a personal level. There is the need to count our days and look for the story in our own lives. Not to do so leads to a sense of meaninglessness; that life is arbitrary with no ultimate goal or accomplishments. If we do not count, if we do not note the details as part of a collective whole, then we lose sight of our direction and achievements. It is for this reason that when one counts the Omer the custom is not to count just the days but to note the number of weeks as well. “Today is the 46th day which is six weeks and four days of the Omer.” We denote both the day and the larger system of which it is part.
King David wrote, “Teach us to count our days in order that we may acquire a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 91:12). It is only when we count our days that we are able to see the wisdom, meaning and direction in our lives. Counting allows us to witness God’s hand as He co-authors with us the incredible drama in our individual lives as well as the saga of the Jewish people in the most powerful stories ever told.
Time has been wastin’ away,
You know Time doesn’t wait for nobody to find what they’re after
It just keeps on rolling on down the deep canyons
And through the green meadows into the broad ocean
Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale
Aish South Florida www.aishfl.com