Sefirat HaOmer – Rising to New Levels

In this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Emor, we are instructed to count the Omer (Sefirat HaOmer). Every day, beginning with the second day of Passover, we are to count the days until the holiday of Shavuot. The counting is not merely a matter of determining the date of Shavuot. The Maharal (Tiferet Yisrael, chapter 25) says that these days are supposed to be days of progress in preparation for the day of receiving the Torah, which is what we celebrate on Shavuot. The counting represents that every day we are coming closer to being on the proper spiritual level to renew our connection to the Torah.

The Chasam Sofer says (Drashot, p. 79) that if we utilize these days to properly prepare ourselves, every day, as we count the Omer, we will rise higher and higher in Torah wisdom. And if we fill these days of counting with spiritual growth, we will become like new people on Shavuot and merit tremendous holiness on this day.

Counting All Our Days and Making Our Days Count

Rabbi Avigdor Miller applies this mitzvah as a lesson to our entire life. It is not only the days leading up to Shavuot that we should be counting; we should be counting every single day of our lives. Every day of life is a new opportunity to accomplish more in our service of God and rise to higher spiritual levels. We must make sure we make every day of our life count. We don’t need to attach a number to every day of life. But what we do need to do is make sure we make every day count in our spiritual accomplishments.

Rabbi Miller expounds on this concept and explains how this is actually one of the greatest functions of the cycle of day and night. If not for the cycle of day and night, we would be living in one long day that never ends. That fact that the sun rises and sets every day is an opportunity for great benefit. The beginning and end of a day help us break up time in order to reflect at the end of a day on what we accomplished, and to think at the beginning of a day about what our goals are for the day.

There is so much one can accomplish with his days, and at the same time, it is very easy to let time slide. The day and night cycle is intended for us to take stock of our progress and contemplate what we have accomplished on a given day, and what are we prepared to accomplish the next day.

When Each Day Counts, Every Minute Counts

Rabbi Elazar Menachem Man Shach lived in Bnei Brak, Israel, and every so often, he had to make a trip to Jerusalem. He was offered to be provided with private transportation for these trips, but he refused the offers. Instead, he would travel by bus, which required him to switch from one bus to another mid-trip. Despite the fact that the trip by bus took far longer than it would by car, he insisted on using public transportation, until he got to an age when it became difficult to do so.

Someone once asked him why he preferred to take public transportation instead of being driven privately, which would be much more convenient for him. Rabbi Shach replied that if he were to be driven by a private driver, he would be forced to make conversation with the driver as an act of politeness and gratitude. Instead, he rather utilized public transportation; thereby he had the opportunity to study Torah during the trip without having to converse with anyone. When you make your days count, every minute counts.

Utilize the Opportunity of a New Day

The days of Sefirat HaOmer present a tremendous opportunity. Every counting is a chance to reflect on our progress. Every day is a new opportunity to gain more appreciation for Torah and strengthen our connection to Torah. It is up to us to utilize the act of counting to reflect on our spiritual accomplishments. The lesson of this counting expands beyond this period of time, as it is a lesson for every day of our lives. The more we take stock of each day, the more we will pay attention to properly take advantage of our days, and the more we will ensure that they will count and not be wasted.

By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber

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