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Parashat Emor - 5775

My friends,

Parashat Emor deals with the laws of the Kohanim. Their mission is to sanctify G-d's name among the people by their behavior as representatives of the Temple service.

This portion also lists all the Jewish holidays, which are holy days that must be observed as such. On those appointed times, a holy assembly is called and everyone is supposed to observe the holy day. In this parasha we also find the commandment of Counting the Omer, which starts the day after Pesach and continues for 49 days, seven weeks. The 50th Day is Shavuot, which commemorates the Revelation at Mt. Sinai and the Giving of the Ten Commandments.

The Mitzvah of counting of the Omer is simple. We recite a Bracha, thanking G-d for commanding us to count the Omer. On the first night (second evening of Pesah) we say today is day one, next evening day 2, etc. When we reach seven we say today is day seven which completes one week, following this format until we reach the last day - today is day 49 which completes seven weeks.

Our sages explain that when the children of Israel left Egypt, Moses explained that they still had not gained their complete freedom. That will come when they receive the Torah. The counting, therefore, is like when an important event is coming up and we look forward to that day by literally counting the days in anticipation of that special day.

I read a beautiful explanation for the reason that we count the days passed, rather than how many days are left to the great day of Shavuot. This analogy is given:

This New York bagel salesman stands every morning by the entrance to the subway. People hand him a dollar and he gives them a bagel. One morning this gentleman comes by and hands him a dollar but refuses to accept the bagel. The salesman says, “You paid for it, it's yours." But the man responds, "I don't really want the bagel. I just admire how you get up this early in the morning to be of service to people. Keep the dollar."

It happened again the next day and the next day, and every time the salesman wants to hand the man a bagel, the man says, "No, I do not want the bagel. I just admire how you get up so early to help the people."

About six months into this ritual, when the man handed over the dollar and was about to rush to the subway, the salesman called out, "Sir, can I talk to you?" The man answered, "I am really in a hurry. What is it?" The salesman replied, "I wanted you to know that the bagels now cost a dollar and a half."

We count the days that have passed to remind us to look back and reflect on the days that have passed. Did we prepare ourselves for Shavuot to be ready to accept the teaching of the Torah?

This lesson can be applied to life. We reflect on the days, months and years that have gone by. Did we fill them with worthy endeavors. Every day is a special gift. Treasure every day. Do not take the gift of time for granted. Because no matter how many days and years we are granted, they will be too short for what we need and want to do.

May all your days be cherished and filled with worthy endeavors and kindness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram