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Countup

Friday, 13 May, 2022 - 9:17 am

Next week my daughter Chavi will turn twelve years old. According to Jewish tradition she will become a Bas Mitzvah, an adult.

As you can imagine, she has been preparing earnestly for this moment. In fact, as parents, my wife and I  have endeavored to prepare her for the last twelve years.

She is eagerly counting down toward this special moment when she takes her place among the Daughters of Israel. Her anticipation is palpable.

How can we ensure that her attainment of maturity is a time she embraces her role as a proud Jewish woman? What can we do to secure an active and enthusiastic Jewish future for our young adults?

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, speaks of a mitzvah we are currently engaged in – the counting of the Omer. Our tradition teaches that the 49 days of counting the Omer correspond to the 49 days that the Jewish people counted – from when they left Egypt until they received the Torah at Sinai.

In modern times anticipating a great event such as a new year or a rocket launch is marked by counting down to zero, when the event occurs.

But our ancestors followed a different pattern.  One might argue that the Jews’ counting toward Sinai was anticlimactic.  Wouldn’t the drama have been elevated if Revelation at Sinai was zero hour?

Why did the Jews count up to the Giving of the Torah, and why do we now count up to 49 rather than down to zero?  After all, isn’t zero an absolute target, giving greater emphasis to our anticipated destination?

I have the same wish for my daughter Chavi as I had for my other children upon entering adulthood. This is not your graduation from Judaism.  It is your beginning.  It is your moment to personalize your spiritual journey within Torah, to accept the privilege of your people relying on you, and deepen your relationship with Hashem.

 With this attitude we arrive at a powerful realization – we are just beginning.  The efforts to get us thus far are only paving the way for the work yet to come.  If – after all this preparation – our journey is over, we indeed have a net result of zero.

Judaism looks at life and our relationship with our Creator as a constant progression, a work continuously in the making.  We must never be satisfied with the status quo, but yearn and strive for greater goodness and sanctity, for another mitzvah, for another opportunity to discover the G-dly within and without.

The Jews were not looking to arrive at Sinai and say, “This is it. We are done.”

Rather they – and we – continuously attempt to improve and advance.

The journey has just begun. Let’s count up!

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