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Counting Down the Days

We are now in the seven-week period between Pesach and Shavuot, known as Sefirat Haomer, “Counting the Omer.”

One of the reasons for this mitzvah is to commemorate the eagerness with which our forefathers prepared for the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. With great anticipation they counted the days from when they left Egypt until they received the Torah. Thus, we repeat this count every year. The count is called the “Omer” because it begins on the second night of Passover, after the Omer offering (of the new crop of barley) is brought.

Jewish history records a tragic event that occurred during this time. A plague struck the students of the famed Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva, and 24,000 of his students died, within 33 days. For this reason, some mourning customs are kept during this time: We do not cut hair and do not hold weddings. However, the essential concept of Sefirat Haomer is not mourning, but rather anticipation of a joyous event.

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When we look forward to an exciting event, we often count down the days. However, usually we count down the days remaining until the event – not the days that have elapsed since we started counting. When we count the days we have left, the emphasis is on what we're missing; how much time we still need to wait. When we count the days that have passed, that denotes satisfaction – we are pleased at how far we’ve come.

When we count the Omer, we count up from the first day of Passover. “Today is one day of the Omer. Today is two days of the Omer,” and so forth. Each day of counting brings with it a sense of fulfillment – we are one day closer, two days closer, and so on.

Chassidic teachings explain that Sefirat Haomer is a period of preparation. With each day that passes we progress along a spiritual track that leads us to receiving the Torah. Rather than stress the days that still remain before receiving the Torah, we rejoice with each day that passes, because of the progress we have made.

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The sense of anticipation we experience during the days of Sefirat Haomer remind us of how we must count the days until the final Redemption. We do not count the days that remain, since the Redemption can come at any moment. Rather, we count by looking back at the days that have passed and the spiritual preparations we have made.

Sefirat Haomer teaches us that with each day that passes, our rejoicing grows, because we are that much closer to Redemption. Although we don't know the exact day that Moshiach will come, it is known to G-d (and He leaves room for us to hasten the time, through our good deeds). It may be today or it may be tomorrow, but in any event, each day that passes brings the Redemption closer.

Particularly today, when we have already passed 2,000 years in exile, we are that much closer to the Redemption. We have also heard as a prophecy from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that we are the final generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption. Rather than look at how long we still must be in exile, let's look at the reverse – how far we have come and how much progress we have already made. This will lead us to a state of rejoicing, which will culminate with the final Redemption.
 

 


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