The Goal is to Bring Light into the World
“So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12, Translation: Koren Jerusalem Bible)
The Jewish people are accustomed to counting our days. The most familiar of these is the counting of the Omer, in which we count the seven weeks as we turn from spring toward summer, between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. Many Jews use this counting time for Torah learning and personal growth.
A different seven-week count takes place as summer shifts to fall, between the fast day of Tisha b’Av and the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. These seven weeks are counted through the Haftorot of Consolation, which mark an upward progression of healing from the experience of destruction toward increasing closeness to Hashem.
The end of this seven-week period of consolation is really just the beginning of the next phase of counting. With Rosh Hashanah, we count ten days of repentance leading to Yom Kippur. Then after a very brief pause, seven days of Sukkot, concluding with Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. This 8th and final day of the entire cycle represents the height of our joy after an intense period of healing, return and elevation.
This year, those of us accustomed to the Jewish calendar cycle have experienced not only grief and horror but also a strange sense of disorientation in time. Just on the day we hoped for the experience of fulfillment, triumph, closeness to Hashem, we experienced a return to the depth of destruction.
Since October 7, Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, we have been doing a different kind of count: Days of war. Days hostages have been held captive and waiting to return. After seven weeks, the first of the captives were freed, but it feels like there are many more painful days of counting ahead of us. Unlike the counts called for by Jewish tradition and history, we don’t know where or how this one ends. We are living the Jewish history others will recount to their children, and it’s excruciating not knowing what comes next.
Just as we are practiced in counting, we are accustomed to using that counting for our personal and communal growth. We can all grow and increase light in the world right now by using that Jewish instinct for good.
Your contribution doesn’t have to be something extraordinary, just something that reflects your own truth. It could be:
- Creating your own art
- Singing a song with extra intensity,
- Writing a story, personal essay or poem,
- Organizing an online or in-person gathering meant to inform or inspire,
- Saying certain prayers with special intensity (or adding ones you do not normally say),
- Attending a communal event you would normally skip,
- Taking on a volunteer or tzedakah commitment,
- Taking on a certain mitzvah in a new or meaningful way,
- Joining a whatsapp group to inspire you to take action, or simply
- Hugging a child a little tighter to let them know they are loved.
This week we’ll begin the holiday of Chanukah, another time of counting. We’ll count eight days of small lights conquering darkness, of victory against those who sought to extinguish our light.
As we light those candles this year, may we think of how we can shine our own, individual lights in the darkness, increasing as time goes on. And may that light shine out into the world and bring us closer to an ultimate redemption from war and darkness, fear and evil – speedily in our days.