Written by Sharona Kaplan; Co-Director of Jewish Learning Initiative at UCLA
“Teach us to count our days, that we may acquire a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12) is a beautiful prayer acknowledging the art of counting time and the tremendous value the skill affords the counter. After all, who doesn’t get excited entering a “one-day” sale or motivated to tackle the first “hundred days” of a new term? Perhaps the most poignant depiction of counting time can be seen amongst new mothers who typically track age in unnecessarily small increments of time, proudly boasting their child is 18 months, rather than the more natural 1.5 years.
Why? Because counting increments of time creates an expectation for progress. It motivates by creating a sense of urgency, fleeting opportunity and uniqueness. An 18 month old should be different than a 17th month old, having had one extra month for new experiences and new skills. The awareness of impending benchmarks of time (graduation, anyone?) drives progress and inspires growth within individuals who might otherwise be complacent.
Today is the 13th day of the Omer, which is one week and six days. Saying those words, realizing how much time has already elapsed since the Passover Seder and appreciating how the holiday of Shavuot is coming closer and closer, should have a similarly inspiring effect, for one who knows how to count time. The practice of naming each day and recognizing it as an integral part of a continuum is a tremendous gift, providing perspective, patience and motivation.
Time becomes tangible as we count the Omer nightly, marking the transition between Pesach and Shavuot. As the historic national process of refinement, occurring once the Jews went from slavery to Mount Sinai, is mirrored in our own lives, let’s commit to making the days count. Let’s insist on progress and in finding inspiration in the small, incremental passages of time leading towards the exciting ultimate destination.
This article is part of Ha’Am’s Friday Taste of Torah column. Each week, a different UCLA community member will contribute some words of Jewish wisdom in preparation for Shabbat.