Numbering My Days
Counting the omer for the forty-nine days between the second day of Pesah and Shavuot is slightly outside my practice. It is said during the ma'ariv, soon after nightfall. Shaharit is all I can manage in the way of daily prayers. Yet I count these days that are like steps, praying that each one will take me to a higher place, a place of more awareness.
Every year I watch otherwise not very observant Jews spend the week of Pesah being very careful not to eat Hametz. Why this practice and not Shabbat or Kashrut? Day in and day out it's so difficult to get up and daven, give up a great dinner party on Friday night, or pass up calamari. But for one week a year I can be very good Jew and not eat bread. It's a short enough time frame to keep the contract.
When I want to get rid of a bad habit, I give myself a deadline. No sugar for a month is possible to contemplate; to give it up for a lifetime is too much to imagine. I know that I should make every day count by being conscious that every moment offers an opportunity to draw closer to the Holy.
But. So much time is spent asleep. Suddenly it seemed that summer had just begun and now it's over. Where has the time gone? Counting the omer reminds me to count my days. I can't keep my mind focused every day of my life, but for forty-nine days I can look at each day freshly, and at the end of the day say, "Today is the sixteenth day, two weeks and two days."
What has the day been? Has it really been sixteen days since Pesah? Where have I been in these two weeks and two days? I take the moment to look at the day, the week, the month, the year, the life. For forty-nine days I can focus on turning each day into a way to open my eyes to what is happening, to emptying myself to be ready to receive the Torah.
When I count the omer, my intention is to to empty myself of the day's irritations, its problems, even its joys. I do this by becoming conscious of how the day has been spent, and this process helps me to think of the evening as a prelude for the morning. Maybe this is the highest wisdom, being present every moment. Until I can get there, I'll do the best I can by paying attention for short periods of time, realizing how at one moment my life feels like a blink and at another I have time enough for everything. I grow more aware as I count that seven weeks is a long time. Much can be accomplished in that time. I will begin to get up early, give up an addicting behavior, start a new project, or simply remember to number my days more often.