Once again, we have entered the period of marking time between Pesach and Shavuot. We count 49 days — seven weeks — beginning after nightfall on the second night of Passover until the night before Shavout. 49 days between the Exodus from Egypt and receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, between our liberation and our revelation.
The actual mitzvah of counting the omer is tangible and accessible, providing us a simple directive to count each day. After making the blessing “Al Sefirat HaOmer”, we cite the number for that day and we connect it to its place in the number of weeks and days. The challenge in fulfilling the mitzvah, though, is to keep the count active for each day of the full seven weeks, in a methodical, consistent way.
This provides a compelling message for us. The most important things in our lives don’t happen without effort. Counting the omer takes work. You have to remember each evening to count. In a deeper sense, the disciplined counting allows us to keep track of our lives, to appreciate our progress, and to anticipate upcoming events.
In our family, we help remind each other to count the omer each night. It gives us a few moments to pause, put down our phones and connect with each other in a different way. Admittedly, though, we have been already actively engaged in another counting – the days before camp begins. We really don’t know who among us is more excited for this pending event, parent or teen! This same excitement is taking place in families across North America where in less than 30 days, the first Jewish summer camps will open for summer 2016. More than 80,000 campers and over 11,000 college aged counselors will embark on their own “liberation”, find their own “revelation” and make new, meaningful “connections” at camp (also without their phones and devices!).
For me, counting the omer reminds me to count my blessings daily. Not only must we count each day, but we must truly make each day count. We must be grateful for each and every day, and for each and every experience from which we learn and grow.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that we celebrate a number of significant modern-day “countings” related to the State of Israel during the omer period. Next week, we will celebrate Yom HaZikaron, the national memorial day in tribute to the more than 30,000 soldiers who have given their lives to defend our homeland. Immediately following Yom HaZikaron, we will celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, a count of now 68 years young. Considering the historical context, what an incredible miracle we are privileged to experience, celebrate, and support!
This week, we commemorated Yom HaShoah and the unfathomable loss of our six million. No way can we count what was lost. We are so grateful to the survivors who bear witness and who compel us to never forget. The survivors, their children, and their families who share their stories help teach the world the most critical lessons of making each day count.
Over Pesach, I was particularly reminded of the great blessings of the United States of America. We had the honor to visit with former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah. They inspired us with their stories and with their optimism. Hadassah, born to Holocaust survivors in a refugee camp in Prague, Czechoslovakia, came with her family to the United States to build a new life of possibility. Joe made us all believe in the possibility of America by breaking down barriers and actually winning the popular vote for the vice presidency in 2000. Their message to all of us resonated with this theme of counting our blessings.
Furthermore, they reminded us to make each day count. Our participation in the political process has been made possible by those who blazed the trail before us and our engagement continues to make a difference. Especially as we once again confront a world full of challenges, our voices must be heard.
Very appropriately during this omer period, our family will travel to Washington on May 18th to join this year’s NORPAC mission. Just as we count days, the political process counts on us. We will participate and advocate. We will be counted. And we will make sure each day counts.