As the second night of Passover comes to a close, the Jewish people have an odd tradition of counting the day every day from that night forward for 49 days. The idea behind counting everyday, I mean literally saying out loud, “Today is the first day, today is the second day, today is the third day…” (You get the idea) is that as everyday passes, after we’ve mastered the state of freedom that the holiday of Passover has to offer, we then count every day as a way to take note in mastering our own personal achievement in behaving as free people with accountability, morality, transformation of self, and the ability to achieve a state of character refinement. We literally count everyday like it is our first day, like it is the only day that matters. And we do this for 49 days, which marks the actual day the Jewish people received the precious Torah from God on Mount Sinai- the day heaven kissed earth, the day our bodies became containers of a higher purpose, rather than a shell destined for listless materialistic attempts to coax our aching minds.
During these 49 days, we acknowledge our triumph over our ego, over our selves, over our selfishness, over any negative behavior we might face, and we are claiming as we count each day, we are determined to overcome our personal enslavement with dignity.
But lets be real. Is this what really happens? Because if we are honest, I think most of us wake up in the morning and, let’s face it, no matter how much we count the day, the same bitter challenges we faced from the day before will probably be there the day after again to enslave us as is the ritual we have so valiantly manifested, minus a few variables. And they are probably still there the next morning after that (like Groundhog Day). I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just trying to be realistic. In reality our circumstances may vary but they are not going to massively shift into a cataclysmic reversal just because a holiday came and went and now we are counting Monday.
Are we to really believe, because we are counting the days of our lives, our soap opera life has suddenly ended? Just because we celebrated the holiday of Freedom for 8 days and began counting everyday like OCD C3PO’s does not mean we are suddenly free from being – well ourselves. So what’s the game we are playing here? Is there any real relevance to counting everyday for 49 days, or is it some twisted game we use to pretend life is grand when really it is a battlefield?
Time is a funny thing, because no matter how hard you try to beat it at its own game, there it is staring at us in the face and sometimes it feels as though we are counting backwards versus upwards. What are we working towards? As soon as we get to that “coveted destination” aren’t we in old age, which eventually leads to our expiration? It seems odd to spend a good portion of our year counting upwards as a reminder of this morbid eventuality.
First we must understand how time works to understand how this incredible count off works. According to the Jewish tradition, time is like a sphere. Like a perfect circle, it has no end. When we celebrate a holiday, it is as if we are tapping into the energy collected in that force field echoed from our past. On Passover, we celebrate how we broke away from slavery. This experience is as real today as it was over 3,000 years ago. The human story is still the same, the pain we suffered, the triumph we accumulated is as tangible today as it was then. The human narrative of reliving our own personal slavery continues to be applicable. Some of us are enslaved by victimhood, others by addiction, some by feeling worthless, others by shame and/or guilt, some by the imprisonment of blaming ourselves, blaming others, blaming the media, the candidates, Mcdonald’s Whopper that has an un-Godly amount of juicy lard . We all find ways to subjugate our psyche.
Today marks Yom Hashoah, the day we remember the millions who perished during World War Two. Time is cycling, and today we feel the same feeling of sorrow and loss. Never forget means, no matter how many years have passed, we still have the memory of hurt etched into our minds. Holding on to pain is not something many of us can relinquish, nor should it be. We spend lifetimes trying to react differently as a result of pain, but that is why we carry it, to learn how to hold it without letting it crush us.
Remembering how our humanity has evolved takes tremendous work as we ask ourselves to go back to dark moments we faced, and relive those tragedies again in the hopes that we never have to- again.
I don’t think there’s any accident to the fact that Yom Hashoah falls out during the weeks we are counting.
When we count something precious like a handful of diamonds, we count them over and over again. We make sure every single stone is accounted for before we create a parcel. If one stone is left unaccounted for, it is a massive financial loss, so we are careful with our counting. When we choose not to count a collection of material possessions it usually means we don’t have the same affinity towards it, it doesn’t hold the same amount of importance, the same amount of weight. So what are we counting that holds such great importance?
We are counting our desire for confidence, our need for self compassion, our will to overcome. It is the confidence in ourselves, in our ability to defeat obstacles that become the precious parcel we protect through counting.
Everyday that we look into the mirror and we say “Today is the third day, Today is the fourth day, the fifth day, etc” we are essentially saying, we are further away from reacting to pain, and closer to the comeback . We are counting upwards. We are collecting our parcel of goodness, of hope, of optimism, of courage and we are counting it over and over again. We count up towards a new enlightenment, a new being is emerging with every day we count as we climb that ladder away from the bottom, away from the darkness, away from the negative behaviors that have gripped us like a choke hold. We still have the hurt, we cannot forget it, but we emerge. Like a flower, we bloom out of the seeds of the destructive forces that wounded our tired delicate petals. And we grow more vibrant more fragrant, more redolent of our grief that now glows with gallantry. We are carrying our hurt selves and then morphing- exploding into a greatness. During these 7 weeks it is as if we are counting our way up towards a shuttle launch, to the galaxy of the unknown and to the road less traveled. Only instead of counting backwards, 10, 9, 8, 7….we are counting upwards, 1, 2, 3, 4. We count upwards to prove we have the ability to move higher and higher in our personal evolution despite the wreckage we drag, maybe in spite of the demolished crushed spirits that encumber our emerging identity.
On Yom Hashoah, as we count the day, let us count ON the day as well. Let us count on the moment we remember our 6 million, let us count on their fine spirits to carry us through those chagrined days where counting is a struggle, where remembering our character has a choice to morph in spite of the arena, where the tomorrow is not a journey into the desperate, but a voyage into the courageous unknown as we advance upwards, enlightened by the knowledge once we’ve hit the bottom, the only stride left for us to forge towards is up, up and away.