Backman’s Corner: Why do we count days during the Omer?

posted in: 2016-2017, Opinion | 0
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By Eli Backman
For the Mitzpeh
@Mitzpeh

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A friend told me this time period is called ‘Sefirah’ and we count the days. Please explain?

To know when school will be out!

Sefirah, which means “count” in Hebrew, refers to the counting of days between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. Passover was the time the Jews left Egypt, and Shavuot was the time they received the Torah from G-d at Mount Sinai. The time between is seen as a time they spent preparing for the big day. There is also a connection to the different grain offerings brought in the temple, one on the second day of Passover and the next (sort of a part two) was brought on Shavuot. Therefore, Sefirah is the count between them.

Each night we  count – at night during services or at home – make a blessing and then say the correct day.. We say both the day of the overall count and the weekly count, for example, “Today is the ninth day, which is one week and two days to the Omer.” (Omer is the name of one of the offerings mentioned above).

There are many customs connected to the time of the Sefirah count, for more info, click here.

Today, we don’t have the offerings, but we do have the preparation for the anniversary of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, Judaism’s most pivotal and important moment. We need to find ways to make it real and more than just an anniversary, and we need to find ways to allow ourselves to engage it in our daily lives. This is for what we prepare ourselves, during the Sefirah time period.

Yankel once complained to his friend. “It is so frustrating! I keep asking people the same question and I always get different answers.” His friend said “What is the question? Yankel replied “What time is it?”

Ever hear the saying “I had a long week!” Now, what does that mean? Every week has seven days, each day is 24 hours, etc. How could one be longer then the next?

Each similar unit of time is the same, every day is 24 hours, each hour is 60 minutes, etc. The intrinsic value of time is that it plain and simply exists. Regardless of whether we accomplish what we want, , it still is what it is.

Often we don’t want to look at it that way. Instead, we say, “Hey, I did nothing for the last hour…what a waste,” or, “I just blew some time playing.” Either way, whatever you did, the beauty of time is that it is always the same and has the same worth. An hour is still an hour and a minute a minute.

Imagine that we could learn to look at everyone in the same way? What a different world we would live in if we could only learn to ‘count’ everyone as the same, with the same worth. Regardless of what someone did or accomplished, we are all human beings and deserve the same treatment. In such a way, we would all ‘count’ for more.

This is (one of) the central preparations to receiving, and ultimately living with the Torah: a need for us to have true unity. It is about all of us belonging, no one person more than the next.

Eli Backman is the rabbi at UMD Chabad and can be contacted at chabad@umd.edu. Backman’s Corner is a monthly column alternating between an opinion piece and an ‘Ask the Rabbi’ format.

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