Hopefully many of us are still counting the Omer each evening, as we have since the second night of Pesach. For me this year my count is saved every night thanks to “Omer Counter 2.0.8” from Chabad.org’s mobile apps division. As we count down (or up) the 49 days toward the giving of the Torah, as represented by Shavuot, I always think about the topics of what counts … and why what we do “counts.”
Aside from my father, a great mathematician of blessed memory, “The Count” from Sesame Street, from whom I learned much about counting; the Count of Monte Cristo (an excellent read by Alexander Dumas!); and Count Dracula (and don’t forget Count Chocula), the Omer is really the Jewish community’s greatest count. In addition to providing spiritual preparation and a directed purpose following the dizzying halachot of Pesach, it’s useful to think about what we learned on day 11 or how we moved forward on day 11 from day 10, for example.
Because I have not yet studied the Omer in depth, I associate it with a mitzvah that is from Hashem but not something for which there is a specific known reason today or a direct, immediate ethical benefit, like the laws of kashrut or shiluach hakan (the sending away of the mother bird). It’s just something we Jews do, because it’s what Hashem asked. It encourages me to think about ways we can do mitzvot to serve Hashem that don’t have a personal direct benefit. I always see a great example in my own neighborhood right after Pesach.
It’s an honor and a privilege for me to watch the Rosenfeld family of Bergenfield open up their Gluten-Free Gemach every year immediately following Pesach. Miriam and Jeffrey and their four boys do so much good simply by putting a big container outside their house following Pesach, for no-contact dropoffs, and then organizing all the unopened packages in their house. Then this past week they invited anyone who depends on gluten-free food to “shop free” and get a start on their supplies for the year to come. The gemach has grown enormously in recent years, and the outpouring of support is really an example of a way to enhance a mitzvah in a directed way to help others.
What’s especially neat for me to know is that while the Rosenfelds (and my family as well) are all-too-familiar with food allergies, they have no particular reason to collect gluten-free products and do not have a gluten allergy in the family; they just know there are people out there who would benefit. Would it be that others would be so giving, so open and so mitzvah-minded to help others! The Rosenfelds really make their Omer count!
By Elizabeth Kratz