These days, we’re also taking part in another daily count. We count the number of people who’ve contracted Covid-19. The number hospitalized. The number who have tragically passed away. And we’re also counting the number of days we’ve been confined to our homes, sheltering in place.
Particularly in these times, it’s helpful to remember that the point of the Omer is not about counting for its own sake. It’s about making our days count.
The freedom from oppression that we celebrate on Passover is certainly a seminal moment in Jewish history. But freedom alone was never the end goal of our people. That end goal is reflected in Shavuot, when we received the Torah and became a nation under God, with rules and commandments, and collective responsibility for one another.
The counting of the days, instructed by the Torah, is intended as a reminder of this critical progression — from the Passover of freedom to the Shavuot of peoplehood.
And so, too, today. At a time when some are at home simply counting the days, we hear so many inspiring stories of those who are not missing the opportunity to make these days count. Healthcare workers who are fighting to save lives around the clock. The heroes at our nonprofit partners: drivers delivering food to the homebound elderly, homecare providers, mental health professionals, and so many others.
We’ve also heard stories of volunteers doing extraordinary things: College students tutoring kids online. A group of people who made sure Mother’s Day packages made it to a domestic violence shelter. Others who packed food for the elderly and, in one package, slipped in a surprise birthday cake, later discovered by a grateful recipient celebrating his 93rd birthday. Every one of them making these days count.
The Omer resonates in another way for us, too. Earlier this week was Lag Ba’Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer). Lag Ba’Omer is a day of celebration, marking the end of a plague 2,000 years ago that’s said to have taken the lives of thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students. In Israel, Lag Ba’Omer is a day for bonfires, large barbecues with family and friends, weddings, haircuts — pleasures large and small we haven’t experienced for a while now.
As the weeks go on and the numbers we count in New York continue to move in the right direction, we hope for our own modern-day Lag Ba’Omer celebration, an end to this pandemic. And here’s to hoping that when our world reopens, the focus on making days count carries on — an inoculation against ambivalence, making our community stronger and more caring than ever before.