Emor: Count each day to make each day count!
Where do we have a mitzvah to count?
In Parshat Emor (Vayikra 23:15) the Torah tells us,
“Usfartem lachem,” – “Count for yourselves,” meaning that from the second day of Pesach until the festival of Shavuot we must count forty nine days. Why do we have such an imperative within the 613 mitzvot of the Torah?
Number our days
I believe that we can provide an answer from Psalm 90:12 which states,
“Limnot yameinu kein hoda,” – “Teach us, Hashem, to number our days,” indicating that when we look at our lives we shouldn’t consider ourselves to be a certain number of years old but rather, a certain number of days old.
This was certainly the outlook of the founder of our faith, Avraham Avinu. In Parshat Chayei Sara (Bereishit 24:1), the Torah tells us,
“V’avraham zakain, ba b’yamim,” – “Abraham was old, having lived for many days.”
It was in similar fashion that Pharaoh noticed that this was the key characteristic of Yaakov Avinu, Jacob our Patriarch, and so Pharaoh said to him (Bereishit 27:8),
“Kama yemei sh’nei chayeicha?” – “How many are the days of the years of your life?”
Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov utilised every single day advantageously. How can we make the most of every single moment? The answer comes in the continuation of the verse of Psalm 90:12,
“Limnot yameinu kein hoda,” – “Teach us to number our days,”
“V’navi levav chochma,” – “in order that we should become wise hearted.”
In all other languages either you are wise with your mind or compassionate with your heart, but in our tradition we strive to become wise hearted, fusing together the finest capacities of thought and compassion so that we can believe with feeling, and become a blessing to the world.
That is what the tefillin represent. We have a ‘tefillin shel rosh’ on top of our heads and a ‘tefillin shel yad’ on our hand, which faces the heart.
During this period of the Omer we recall what the Talmud tells us about the students of Rabbi Akiva who were brilliant in their minds and yet not sufficiently compassionate in their hearts. That is why we mourn throughout this period. Therefore Hashem gives us a mitzvah to count days in order to make the most of every single one, so that we should become wise hearted and a blessing to our environment, teaching us that if we count our days, we can make our days count.
To receive weekly insights from the Chief Rabbi, subscribe using the form below.