According to the Sefer HaChinuch, the reason we count the days between Pesach to Shavous is to show our great yearning and anticipation for the receiving of the Torah. When you are looking forward to an event, typically you count down the remaining days. For example, a bride looking forward to her wedding day will exclaim “ I am getting married In ten days, nine days, eight days!!!”
A child yearning for summer vacation will announce to his friends “School is over in three days, two days, one day!!!”
Yet, when it comes to the holiday of Shavous we do not count by saying “forty nine days of the omer, forty eighth days of the omer, forty seven days of the omer. Rather we count up. We say “Today is one day of the omer. Today is the second day of the omer. Today is the third day of the omer.It seems anticlimactic. Why?
Rav Shimshon Pinkus z”tl explains the following. Imagine the following two scenarios.
Scenario number one: Someone approaches you and says “At the end of fifty days I am going to give you one million dollars.” Your eyes light up. “That is amazing!”
Scenario number two: Someone approaches you and says “I am going to give you twenty thousand dollars every day for fifty days so in the end you will have one million dollars.” That is great as well, you think to yourself.
In both scenarios you walk away with one million dollars yet there is a slight difference between the two.
In the first scenario, the fifty days are separating you from your one million dollars. You want those days to pass by as fast as possible so you can become a millionaire. Those days are preventing you from receiving your one million dollars.
In the second scenario, the fifty days are creating your one million dollars. Everyday you are getting richer. The first day you have $20,000, the second day you have $40,000 dollars. Every day counts and directly impacts the amount of money you receive. If you miss one day then you will only get $980,000 at the end of the fifty days.
Rav Pinkus explains that scenario number two is what is happening during sefiras haomer. Every day of sefiras haomer you are ascending another level in your spiritual growth which will turn you into a receptacle that can receive the Torah on Shavous. When you count the first day of the omer you are in essence saying: “Today I am going to take one step to grow spiritually.” When you count the second day, you are taking another step to elevate yourself even more than the day before. On the third day, you will take another step beyond that. That way, by the fiftieth day, you will have completely transformed ourselves into a vessel that can contain the torah on shavuos night.
How does one become a receptacle for the Torah? Refined character traits.
Rabbeinu Yonah on Pirkei Avos writes. “Only after a person fixes his middos (character traits) can the Torah enter into him, for the Torah will never reside in a body that does not possess refined character traits.”
By taking advantage of these days to become a kinder person you will not just be counting your days but rather making your days count.
Miriam Brodersen is a writer and teacher at several seminaries in Jerusalem, Israel.