Count the Omer Every Day

“You shall count from the eve of the second day of Pesach when an omer (an old Biblical measure of the volume of grain) is to be brought as an offering, seven complete weeks. The day after the seventh week of your counting will make fifty days, and you shall present a new meal offering to God (Leviticus 23:15-16).”
The 2 Torah verses above from Leviticus point out a tradition our ancestors have followed for millennia since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE. We continue to count the omer every year, even though we long ago gave up bringing harvest offerings to the temple in Jerusalem. Every day at evening services, until June 8th, we will pause and officially designate how many days and weeks have gone by, leading to Shavuot.
It’s a mystery as to why we continue to perform this mitzvah when we are no longer collecting grain offerings at the temple. What exactly, are we counting? Why does it matter?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know the answers; I don’t think anyone knows. Yet even without a clear Jewish legal rationale, this counting of the omer continues to resonate deeply. It signifies a subtle truth, which is: we’re all of us, counting up every day. We will not live forever. We may say to our family something like, “I will always be here for you,” but of course that’s not true.
We are all counting up, every day. It’s not a maudlin or terrifying thought. It’s just the whole truth – unalloyed.What are we to do with our acknowledgment of mortality? We could get very anxious about it. We could be frightened by it. We might even deny it’s true. But all denial is futile. Which hasn’t stopped people from imagining another alternative.
In September 2013, Google announced the creation of Calico, short for the California Life Company. Its mission is to reverse engineer the biology that controls lifespan and “devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives.” 
Then there’s Aubrey De Gray, a gerontologist who’s in the multi-billion dollar anti-aging industry, who says that, “It’s conceivable that people in my age bracket, their 40s, are young enough to benefit from these therapies. I’d give it a 30% or 40% chance that people alive today will live 1,000 years.”
I have absolutely no interest in getting involved with this anti-aging movement. The notion of living a thousand years feels terrible. A modern-day Methuselah? Why?
It makes so much more sense to me to make every day of living as meaningful as possible. Connect with friends and family. Read a good book. Take a nap. Go skiing. Go to San Francisco. Go to the MFA. Do nothing, but do nothing intentionally.
The most important advice on this subject comes from the book of Psalms, where it says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may attain a heart of wisdom.” Help us to appreciate the potential goodness in the world. Help us to embrace the time we have with those we love, and with those who can teach us about the value of the moment. We aren’t going to live forever. So the time is a gift. Count every day like it’s the counting of the omer. Assign some real value to the present tense.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: