In Parshat Emor, the Torah outlines the chagim that mark the Jewish calendar. In the middle, the Torah describes the period in which we currently find ourselves, that of Sefirat HaOmer—as the Torah commands us to count from the second day of Pesach until the chag of Shavuot.
A particularly striking detail of this commandment is the fact that the Torah instructs us to count not only days, but weeks as well—to count 50 days as well as seven weeks. This phenomenon is noted explicitly in the Gemara, and Rabbeinu Yerucham even suggests that the counting of days and the counting of weeks are two independent mitzvot entirely. This analysis serves as the basis for our custom to explicitly mention both days and weeks in our own counting of Sefirat HaOmer—though we consider both countings to be part of one unified mitzvah.
While much is written concerning these laws, a fundamental question can be raised. Why does the Torah require the counting of both days and weeks at all? Shouldn’t either of these counts alone be sufficient—as by counting one, we can easily determine the other using elementary arithmetic?
Perhaps the answer to this question can be gained through a better understanding of the basis for counting Sefirat HaOmer. A common explanation given for the mitzvah is that as we transition from Pesach to Shavuot, we take a moment to count each day, to remember the power and potential of each and every day. We focus on each day, one day at a time, in order to set goals to accomplish that day as we move toward Matan Torah.
I once heard from mori v’rabi, Rav Michael Rosensweig, that based on this explanation, we can understand the importance of counting both days and weeks. If the purpose of counting each day is to encourage us to establish short-term goals for each day, then counting weeks is meant to encourage us to establish long-term goals as well. Aside from setting a daily goal, we also must set our weekly goals; we must take both a short-term and long-term perspective.
In this way, suggests Rav Rosensweig, Sefirat HaOmer acts as a model for the entire year. It teaches us the importance of setting both short-term and long-term goals, and to balance between them. We should set goals for ourselves daily—but at the same time, our focus on daily goals can never cause us to lose focus of our long-term objectives as well. Sometimes our short-term and long-term goals will build off each other. Other times, there may be a clash between the two—and our job is to navigate between them.
The importance of setting both short-term and long-term objectives, and finding the right balance between both, is crucial to successful parenting. As we raise our kids on a daily basis, we often have an expectation of how we want our children to act or behave. If they fail to live up to that standard, then we react accordingly, and encourage them to act in the way that we expect of them.
We must also remember, however, in addition to setting short-terms goals for our children, to set long-term goals for them as well. And as mentioned above, we must pay attention to when the short-term and long-term goals build off each other, when they might clash with each other, and how to find the right balance between them.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe, in זריעה ובנין בחינוך, stresses the importance of a long-term approach to chinuch. He proposes that from the very beginning, we must be cognizant of our overall vision for our children and develop our chinuch methods accordingly. While it’s normal to have expectations of our children when they are younger, we must make sure not to lose sight of our global goals—and never allow our short-term approach to get in the way of our overall objectives.
Rav Wolbe mentions, for example, the way we relate to young kids when they misbehave. Our automatic reaction may be to assert our authority so that the child will behave appropriately. From a short-term perspective, this may achieve our desired goal. At the same time, however, it may also have negative ramifications on our long-term goals. If we are harsh with our children when they are younger, that will impact upon the type of relationship we develop with them; and when the more challenging adolescent years arrive, much conflict may result. Instead, suggests Rav Wolbe, our main goal during the early years should be to create a warm and loving relationship with our child. While this may mean that certain immediate goals are not achieved during these years, it will help ensure that a loving relationship is formed, and that this relationship becomes the framework through which all future conflict and disagreement are addressed.
The period of Sefirat HaOmer carries many beautiful messages. Among them is the lesson that emerges from the fact that we count both days and weeks—namely the importance of establishing both short-term and long-term goals, and striking the balance between them. Particularly in parenting, it is crucial that we don’t sacrifice long-term relationships simply to accomplish short-term objectives. Only by thoughtfully striking the proper balance will we successfully fulfill our role as parents.
Rav Yossi Goldin is a teacher and administrator who teaches in a number of seminaries and yeshivot across Israel. He currently lives in Shaalvim with his wife and family. He can be reached at [email protected]