Make each day count!
In this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Emor the Jewish people are commanded to “count the Omer” that is to count from the second day of Pesach the day that the Omer offering was brought in the Bais HaMikdash, forty-nine days leading up to the holiday of Shavuos. This the Torah tells us is to emulate our ancestors who upon leaving Egypt, actually counted the days towards the time that they would receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. The mitzvah is fulfilled by starting on the first night of Sefirah and saying “Today is one day of the Omer”, and on the second night of Sefirah to say, “Today is two days of the Omer’. …and so on. Once a week is completed the calculation of the week is added. This goes on until the fiftieth day which is Shevuos.
The Bnei Yisroel upon leaving Egypt were completely integrated in the Egyptian culture and their way of life, the process of counting the Omer served as a guide to extricate themselves from that environment and prepare themselves to accept the Torah at Mount Sinai. To achieve that level so that it would have a permanent effect, the Torah tells us is by addressing one’s challenges one day at a time using a gradual approach and focusing on the present.
This approach of taking one day at a time helps us answer a popular question. Why are we commanded to count up towards the receiving of the Torah! …Today is one day of the Omer; Today is two days of the Omer etc. The intuitive way of counting is to count down. When we look forward to an event we say we have x amount of days left.
Counting down means wishing that time away… i.e. thankfully I have one less day standing between me and the anticipated event – I can now cross out that day on the calendar and be rid of it forever. Counting up has just the opposite effect. It means that after the first day of the count from Passover to Shavuos I have gained for myself one day of beauty and growth and opportunity, and after the second day I have gained two days, etc. etc. Not one day of the count is lost, even as we look forward to the end of the count when we receive the Torah on Shavuos.
That is the life lesson of Sefiras Ha’Omer one should recognize each day and each moment of our lives as happening now and we must never squander it in our eagerness to reach the next big milestone in our lives.
This is something that I used to do with my children. When they came home from school I would ask them “tell me one thing that you learned today”. The expectation wasn’t that they had to explain E=mc2 ! it could have been something as straight forward as Lag B’Omer was the day that the Manna started appearing to the Bnei Yisroel in the desert. This idea I believe serves two purposes. First it gives a child the sense that every day is unique and every day has something to teach you – we should not let a day go by without learning something from it. The second is your relationship with your child should have some educational component to it. Just as you the parent, teach, mentor and assist in your child’s development, your children also teach you and help you become a better person by giving you the opportunity to learn the art of giving and sharing.