In ancient times the counting until (my word) the Omer was a matter of life or death. You planted your wheat before Passover and then you started counting. If, after 49 + 1 days the earth did not produce an Omer’s worth of grain, famine, even starvation were the likely results. And so you watched and counted. Each day meant something. Life and death were in the balance.
I am writing in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic that has changed our world, that has us largely quarantined in our homes, that has created a very uncertain future. Each day we hear the count—how many more have lost their jobs, how many businesses have shut down, and saddest of all, how many more have died. Every ninety seconds an American succumbs to this deadly virus, a precious soul lost. Can you count to ninety? That is a life, not a number. Every ninety seconds a parent, a brother or sister, a friend, a child—gone, forever.
I remember when my children were little, we would make these colored paper chains in anticipation of poppa and grandma coming for a visit. Each day we tore off another link, happily awaiting the day when their beloved grandparents would arrive. A few days ago was my mother’s yahrtzeit, the anniversary of her death, this year during the week of Passover. She died on her 89th birthday. I lit a candle as I do each year to remind me of her spirit which is eternal and is a part of me now. Can it be that she has been gone for eight years already? Another counting.
What do you count? What is so dear to you that you note it every day? Your many blessings? No matter the circumstances of our lives we are all richly blessed just to be alive. Are there people you count on? All those health care workers (who we barely noticed last year) risking their lives to take care of us, strangers. Do their loved ones count the hours and minutes until they return home each day? I bet they do.
Can you be counted on? By whom? For what? This, too, is not a number but a matter of life. We give meaning to our days by being a human being that others can count on.
I write this on the 10th day of the Omer, 30 days since I began my quarantine. 7 friends (that I aware of) have had the virus and 1 has died. I pray that you and all the ones you love are safe and well.