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

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By Eli Backman
For Mitzpeh
@Mitzpeh

Why do we count the days?

To know when school will be out!

Sefirah refers to the counting of days between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. Passover was the time the Jews left Egypt and Shavuot is 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 was brought on Shavuot: Sefirah is the count between them.

Each night we make the count – at night during services or at home – and make a blessing,then say the correct day of the count. We say both the day of the overall count and the weekly count. For example, on the ninth day we say: “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).

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. We need to find ways to allow it to connect and talk to us in our daily ‘whatever we live’ life. This is what we think about and for which we prepare ourselves.

Yankel once asked his friend what time it was and his friend answered 2:30. Yankel looked confused. “All day I have been asking the same question and not once have I received the same answer!”

Ever hear the saying “I had a long week!” Now what does that mean? If every week has seven days, and each day is 24 hours  then how could one week be longer than 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 is, not what we accomplish in it. Now, often we don’t want to look at it that way, we say, “Hey, I did nothing for the last hour,what a waste,” or “let’s just pass some time,” but the beauty of time is that it is always worth the same.

If we can learn to look at everyone in the same way, what a different world we would live in! If we could learn to ‘count’ everyone as the same, regardless of what they have accomplished or done, we would all ‘count’ for more.

But it gets deeper, as The Omer period begins and ends with a holiday (Pesach/Shavuot). The Hebrew word for holiday is either Yom Tov (a good day) or Moed (term/season/due) which is a synonym of time. So, not only does time count, and we count each day, but we start with holy time and end with holy time. The same when we look at anyone, like time, they too count and even more they too have the potential to be holy time!

This is one of the preparations to receiving, and ultimately living, with the Torah, Unity and holiness. It is about all of us belonging and counting, no one person more than the next.

Eli Backman is the rabbi at UMD Chabad and can be contacted at chabad@umd.edu.

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