Hope is My Middle Name

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countingWhen I was younger, no sooner would I leave Camp Coleman then I would begin counting down the days until I could go back. My summer camp was such an essential part of my life, my friendships, my freedom, myself, that I couldn't leave without knowing when I would return.

As an adult, I feel the same way about Israel. I was last in Israel in November of 2013 for the Women of the Wall 25th Anniversary celebration. It's been about 571 days since I was there (but who's counting?!) and I have only 24 days until I go back. Israel is an essential part of who I am. I am both grounded and uplifted by being there. It feeds my soul. And so I'm literally counting down the days.

But at the same time, in the Jewish calendar, we are in the period of 49 days between Passover and Shavuot known as the "counting of the Omer." The counting of the Omer, which was an agricultural measure, was a way of linking the holiday of Passover, in which the Jewish people gained freedom, to Shavuot, where they accepted the Torah with open hearts. What's interesting about the counting of the Omer, is that unlike most countdowns, with the Omer we are counting up -- each day we are one day closer to symbolically receiving the Torah on Shavuot.

The rabbis say that counting up rather than down is meant to teach us to savor each day as an opportunity for learning, joy and growth – an opportunity for living. Rather than marking days off on the calendar, anxiously moving toward an exciting day, such as a wedding, Chanukah, camp or a vacation, we are moving up, ascending, and appreciating the journey. The psalmist taught: "Teach us to number our days that we may acquire a heart of wisdom."

Whether counting down or counting up, the practice of counting should heighten our sense of time and the brief opportunity each of us has in life.
The poet, Mary Oliver, asks: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Today is the 41st day of the counting of the Omer.