Count me in

by | May 4, 2012 | Torah Thought

Every year during my childhood my family would have Passover Seder at my aunt’s house on the first night. At the end of the seder I vividly remember hearing people say things like, “Thank G-d that is over, so now we can go on with our normal lives,” and, “Well, we’ll see y’all on Rosh Hashana.” (In Houston, Texas if one speaks to more than one person the word, “Y’all” is automatically inserted.) This feeling is especially common when much effort is put into the major theatrical event that is, “The Passover Seder” – coming to a theater near you.
But seriously, we Jews are very event focused. We look to an event and think that it is the event that is significant. We consider the time, place, and effort that goes into preparing for the event and once that event has been concluded, we give no more thought to the event except maybe to recall the amount of effort it took to successfully make it through the event and
how relieved we are to be on the other side of it. The greatest modern day example that I can think of, and, in my opinion, one of the most troubling issues with modern day Judaism, is the Bar or Bas Mitzvah. It has become such an event that the goal is the date on a calendar instead of a beginning, a stepping-stone to their adult, Jewish future. But I do not want to focus on these issues. I would need much more ink that I am allowed to do justice to what I have termed, “Event based Judaism.” Rather, I would like to focus on this period of the calendar and the significance of this time of year. Right now we are counting “up” the days from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot. We count these days not as a child counts down the days to the end of the school year, but rather we count “up” to the ultimate achievement – the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Exactly 50 days after the Jewish people left Egypt they received the greatest gift ever received in the history of mankind. The Jewish people were given the Torah from G-d. Each and every year we relive this. We count “up” to this day, not as an event, but as an opportunity. We stay up all night, in our synagogues, studying His Torah, and trying to attain the great spiritual level of our Jewish ancestors. My friends, this is yet another example of how we could celebrate an event, the holiday of Shavuot, or we could count, prepare, and understand that each and every day of this counting should be a growth process. We should be using this time to examine our character, examine our commitment, and examine how we view our religion and our relationship with Our Creator. This time of year, like every time of year on the Jewish calendar, is about action. It is not a time where there is a void. Those who attended my aunt’s Passover Seder were looking at the Seder as an opportunity to get together and have a nice meal. To them it was an event on the calendar. To us every holiday, every Shabbos, and every mitzvah we do should be more than an event. We should make each one into an opportunity that may never come again.

—Rabbi Gershon Litt is executive director of Norfolk Kollel.