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Two Minutes of Torah: Emor - Counting up

I have always found numbers to be soothing.  Something about the laws and rules of numbers have a calming influence on me.  I think it’s for that reason that I find Sudoku puzzles to be something quite relaxing to do and occasionally, in certain situations, I will count things in rooms as a way of keeping myself calm. 

It’s no wonder, therefore, that I’m attracted to the instruction that we get in this week’s Torah portion of Emor, to count.  In the Torah portion of Emor, we get the first full telling of our festive calendar.  We’re given the festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.  And for 4 of those 5 festivals, we’re given a date.  Pesach gets a date, Rosh Hashanah gets a date, Yom Kippur gets a date and Sukkot gets a date.  

But, Shavuot is left in a slightly strange position where no date is given by God to Moses.  Instead, the text says, “ and from the day in which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering, the day after the Sabbath, you should count off 7 weeks.  They must be complete.  You must count until the day after the 7th week, 50 days, then you shall bring an offering of new grain to Adonai.”  In this way, Shavuot is not introduced with a date, but rather by a duration of time, from Pesach until Shavuot.  7 weeks, or 7 sets of 7 days for 49, making the 50th day the festival of Shavuot. 

In many ways, 7 is Judaism’s lucky number and so I like the fact that we count 7 sets of 7 to reach the festival of Shavuot.  But more than this, there is significance in the fact that we have to count up.  Normally, when we’re excited for an event, a birthday, or going away to summer camp, we count down so that we reach to zero and at that point, the fun thing has arrived. 

But for Shavuot instead we count up.  The Counting of the Omer involves us each and every day, numbering the day, so that we add days on days until we reach 49 days and on the 50th day we celebrate. 

Counting up reminds us that every day matters.  That every day is significant and not something to be taken for granted with only the destination in mind.  The counting toward Shavuot reminds us that the journey is equally important.  And this is so apt and appropriate for the move and transition from the festival of Pesach to Shavuot.  Our festival of freedom from slavery in Egypt to our festival of Torah.  Shavuot gives Pesach purpose.  But we don’t just get that purpose immediately, we have to work for it.  We have to go through 49 days to be ready to receive the gift of Torah.  We count up, knowing that each and every day matters and at the end we receive God’s most precious gift.  As we stand together at Mt. Sinai as one people accepting the gift of Torah.  

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Rabbi Danny
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