Count Each Day

Yael Eckstein  |  May 12, 2022

Young girl holding two Israeli flags and celebrating Israel's Independence Day

From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. — Leviticus 23:15-16

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This week’s Torah portion for this week is Emor, which means “speak,” from Leviticus 21:1–24:23.

As every Israeli parent and child knows, in Israel, after Passover, the school year is basically over — not because summer is around the corner but because almost every week is punctuated with days off from school for holidays and commemorative days, both biblical and modern. 

It is a wonderful and emotional time of year that can only be fully experienced in Israel, where these days are officially observed by the entire country. 

A week after Passover is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day of pain and mourning when the entire nation pays tribute to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. A week later is Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, when we remember those who fell in our wars. The very next day, we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, with fireworks and festivities.

Then comes a lesser-known holiday called Lag Ba’omer, a day that marks the end of a plague that once claimed 24,000 Jewish Bible scholars in the Holy Land. A week later we celebrate Jerusalem Day, when the Israeli army unified Jerusalem following the Six-Day War in 1967. And a week after that, we celebrate Shavuot, the Jewish Pentecost, also known as the Festival of Weeks. 

This series of holidays and commemorations are a combination of happy and sad days that make for quite a roller-coaster ride of emotions. It’s the highs and lows of Jewish history all packed into less than two months every year.

Count Each Day

I thought about this roller coaster of holidays while reading this week’s Torah portion. As part of the instructions for the biblical festivals, God commanded the people of Israel to “count off seven full weeks” (Leviticus 23:15), one day at a time, from the second day of Passover until the Festival of Weeks, Shavuot.

In the Bible, this count connected the Exodus, commemorated on Passover, to the greatest revelation of God, when He spoke the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, which is commemorated during the Festival of Weeks. And God wanted His children to count each day of this spiritual and physical journey.

Over the course of Jewish history, this time period took on new meaning. As God ordained it, many major events in Jewish history, as outlined above, both joyous and painful, have occurred during these days.

Maybe that’s why God wanted us to count each day one by one. He was teaching us that our journey from the Exodus to the revelation of God at Mount Sinai is filled with ups and downs. And they all must be marked by counting them one day at a time, so we can appreciate and remember each day.

Your Turn:

Think about your own personal faith journey. What have been your ups and downs? How can you mark and count those days?