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Make it count

“Time is money,” said Benjamin Franklin. Maybe that’s why they put his visage on the $100 bill—to remind us of the time and effort exerted in earning that money every time we spend it. (Now, if only there would be a similar reminder on Zelle and Venmo…)

Although time is indisputably one of the most precious commodities a person owns and has access to, it is also the most underrated and misused. The surface value of time is mostly obvious, because without time nothing gets done. We appreciate the opportunities that time provides us, and we also recognize the comfort in the consistency of time.

But along with that, because we didn’t necessarily do anything to earn time—it’s something that we all have regardless of who we are and our investment in it—it’s often taken for granted and misappropriated. Like anything else that we have an excess of, and especially something we didn’t work for and earn, we may come to neglect it. Moreover, because it isn’t something that we can control—after all, time keeps moving whether we want it to or not—its inherent value can be blurred and sometimes forgotten.

To counter that, Torah provides us with a fascinating mitzvah for this time of year. The “counting of the Omer” is where we count the forty-nine days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot, just as our ancestors did following the exodus from Egypt. The goal of the exodus was to arrive at Mt. Sinai and experience the great revelation that came along with receiving the Torah. Once the Jewish nation departed Egypt they began counting the days until they reached their destination, on the 50th day.

But what purpose is there in counting days, if the 50th day will arrive whether we count the days or not? Is it just about the anticipation and checking another day off the calendar as the target approaches? There has to be something more, which is why this mitzvah is still applicable today, 3,336 years later. Our counting today isn’t just to commemorate our ancestors’ counting, but to count the days now too.

Counting days reminds us that a day, and time in general, is indeed fleeting. A moment that is not properly utilized is lost and can never be returned. Unlike almost anything else we own, time is unique in that it is literally here one moment and gone the next. By counting the days, we place this concept front and center of everything we do, reminding us to maximize our time or risk losing it forever.

Properly utilizing time does not mean that we need to be fully engaged in religious activities all day without any time for personal pursuits. Maximizing our time to its fullest potential means that even when we are involved in mundane activities, such as work, leisure, eating, sleeping, and so on, we infuse those moments with a sense of purpose and holiness. There is the Jewish way to eat and the Jewish way to do business, as well as the Jewish way to go about every single moment of our day. This is accomplished by counting days and being cognizant of their immense value—every moment that we are alive is an immeasurable opportunity to make the world a better place. 

That’s what our ancestors did when they left Egypt, and it’s what we aim to accomplish today too. Time is G-d’s gift to us, which we must recognize and put to its most effective use.

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