Perhaps one of the most unique features characterizing Shavuot is the extensive “Omer” counting that leads up to the holiday. It is fascinating that the Torah does not prescribe a specific calendar date for Shavuot but rather dictates that it occurs seven weeks after Passover, thus leaving the counting process to define the holiday’s location on the calendar. The counting of the Omer, as with other instances of counting, is one that instinctively invites several emotional reactions. From numbering the weeks in an academic quarter (graduation, anyone?), to following the first 100 days of a presidency, to being acutely aware of how many days and weeks have passed in a baby’s life — it is easy to appreciate how counting time invites feelings of expectation and anticipation, along with a sign of identifiable progress.
Historically, the period following the Jewish exodus from Egypt was one punctuated by personal and national transformation. Freed from slavery, the fledgling Jewish nation was charged with shedding their slave mentality, reconstituting their national identity and establishing a new direction, which culminated in the Shavuot experience of unity at Mount Sinai, during which the Jewish nation received the Torah.
We are gifted with the opportunity to leverage this historical period of transformation annually by focusing on personal character refinement, communal connections and recommitting ourselves to Torah values. The counting that ushers in and defines the holiday becomes an inspiring force, generating an expectation for palpable change and noteworthy progress. Just like “week two” of the academic quarter is markedly different from “week eight,” and a two-month-old old baby is noticeably more developed than a two-week-old, we challenge ourselves to embrace the passage of time as we approach Shavuot and invite marked positive transformation into our own personal and communal realities.