A very timely reminder comes in this week’s Torah portion, Emor. That reminder is that we are in the period of counting the Omer. In a list of sacred festivals to be observed, we read, “you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week — fifty days.” (Lev. 23:15-16). As described in the Torah, these seven weeks take us from the beginning of the grain harvest to the celebration of the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), which was, for the ancient Israelites, an agricultural festival. Only later does the celebration become associated with the giving of the Torah at Sinai. In our day, the counting heightens our anticipation as we look forward to the next holiday on the Jewish calendar.
Marking the beginning and end of something by counting days is a good thing when we know the exact number of days involved. These days, stressed over the uncertainty of how long we need to stay at home and maintain physical distancing, counting may not be such a good idea. Rather than focus on the number of days, it might be easier to focus on making the most of each day. Time is precious, but how we use our time determines our mood and attitudes. If we consider each day at home a gift to spend with family or on the phone and on-line with friends, we will feel gratitude. If we focus on the physical safety afforded to us in our homes, we might develop more generosity towards those who are homeless.
The situation in which we find ourselves was not of our own choosing, but how we respond to the challenges we face is up to each of us. May we find the strength to be present and to thank God for each and every day.