It’s (not the) final countdown: A Look at the Omer

By: Rachel Eisen

Sometimes I feel like we count too much.

When I was in school, I was always counting down the days, years, to the next big thing. How many years until high school? Until I graduate high school and go off to college? How many credits until I’m finished with my major requirements? How many words do I still have to write in my thesis? There were even official, school-sponsored, “50 Days ‘til Graduation” events.

We count down the hours in the day until we can go home and relax. We count the days of the week until the weekend. We count the number of things we have to do. We count the number of things we have. We count our money. We count down how many emails we’ve answered and how many meetings are left in our calendar. Now we even count out items on lists in our news stories. Maybe I should title this blog post, “10 Million Ways We Count Things.” (Subtitled, “I never thought I could be so surprised by all these mind-blowing little things!”)

We count just as a way to get through things. But there’s a difference between getting through something and actually looking toward something. Right now, we’re in the period of sefirah, the counting of the Omer, the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. At Passover, the Israelites were physically freed but hadn’t yet found true, spiritual freedom. It took them seven weeks to get to Mt. Sinai and receive the Torah from God via Moses, and there were some definite bumps along the way.

Lesli Koppelman Ross defines “true freedom” as “knowing what you want to do – what you truly want being what is good for both the body and soul – and having the discipline to achieve it, which means being able to control the natural desire for immediate gratification that can distract you.”

I don’t think I’m yet at true freedom. And I don’t think I’m going to get there by Shavuot. I don’t even think I’m going to get there by next Shavuot. But I am in a period of transition. I’m about to embark on a new adventure: graduate school. I’m still waiting to figure out what I truly want, what’s good for both my body and my soul, and I’m hoping graduate school will be a step in the right direction or at least will help me to start thinking about those next steps.

So this Omer period, I’m not counting down to the end of something. It’s important to note that the Omer count starts at 1 and goes up to 49, not the other way around. So I’m counting up to a new start. Spiritual freedom isn’t a destination. The count shouldn’t end there. It should be the beginning.

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