A few days ago, we began counting the Omer, the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, the day on which we received the Torah. This practice began during the days of the Temple when the barley harvest commenced and we brought an omer (a specified measure or sheaf) of barley to the Temple daily, beginning on the second day of Passover until the start of the wheat harvest 49 days later.
This daily offering was quite significant, so much so, that the sages became concerned that we might stop counting once becoming more industrialized, prioritizing our urban lifestyles over our agricultural roots. They therefore determined that, since we really didn’t know the exact date on which we received the Law, that date would be set 49 days after the barley harvest began because, after all, who wouldn’t be motivated to count down the days to receiving the Torah?
There is a fundamental connection between freedom and law and we acknowledge this in the counting of the omer. We became free when we left Egypt and that freedom became meaningful when we received the Law. Freedom without boundaries is like giving a 16-year-old a car without admonishing him or her to stop when lights turn red. We were given the rules for civilized living 7 weeks after becoming a free people.
Daily, many of us not only count, but read insightful interpretations of what each of these days mean. We read about chesed, or lovingkindness, beauty and wisdom as we move closer to receiving this amazing gift. Others simply say the blessing which commands us to count and the following words which indicate what day of the counting it is--all too often, focusing only on how close we are to 49.
It is wonderful to have goals, to find the paths leading us toward them and to work toward the end. We are told to keep our eyes on the ball, and to keep on climbing. But, what about the beautiful field surrounding that ball game? The flowers along the path? Each rung that supports us as we climb?
Those who pay attention to each message as they count find meaning in every day; those solely looking ahead may miss the value in each moment, the flowers, the lessons and the people to be met along the way.
As we continue our journey toward Sinai and the gift of G-d’s Law, may each of us stop along our personal paths to realize what a gift each moment truly is and to smell the flowers.