On the second night of Passover, there is a mitzvah to start counting the Omer.
Historically, the counting of the Omer represents the commandment from the Torah to count 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. In Temple times this occurred during the harvest and was marked by the subsequent offerings brought. Spiritually, the counting of the Omer is said to represent the 49 days of the Jews’ journey from when they were freed from Egypt to the time they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai and formed their covenant with God.
What is the value in tracking each day during the period between Passover and Shavuot, and how can we make the most of our time? Who do we want to become when this is all said and done?
When the Jews left Egypt, they had no idea what was beyond the Red Sea. They didn’t know if there were enemies waiting for them on the other side, if they’d be able to keep their families safe, or how long they would be wandering in a foreign and unknown land. They took each day, one day at a time. Surely there were days that they must have wished they were back in Egypt; even though they were enslaved, they knew what to expect and what the structure of their days were like. Wandering in the desert, they had no assurances that God would provide for them.
During this time of uncertainty over the next 7 weeks, how are we using the current days to help shape our future? Will this experience prove to be better for us in the end and culminate in a Mt. Sinai like experience? Much like the Jews in Exodus, some of our days have moments of beauty and peace, yet other moments are full of anger and frustration. There are days we can’t wait to put far behind us, and long for what we once knew, regardless of how imperfect those days might have been. God took the Jews out of Egypt, but what happened along the way wasn’t necessarily from divine intervention. Rather, it was from the will of the people once they were given a true choice.
Maybe, the experience of wandering in the desert was meant to challenge and simultaneously inspire the Jews to recognize what they wanted and needed. Though they weren’t perfect, when given a blank canvas with which to paint their future, the Jews ultimately chose to form a profound and long lasting commitment to God. So too, these 7 weeks provide us the opportunity to reflect and contemplate who we want to be when we create our new normal out of choice.
By counting each day, even those that are challenging and imperfect, it allows us to recognize where we’ve been and where we hope to go.