Chodesh Iyar: A message from Rav Daniel Steinherz

“Time is the only commodity we have that the more of it you spend, the richer you become.”

Dearest Talmidim,

I write this as I am waiting to board a plane to be Menachem Avel to a Talmid who lost his mother suddenly. We are at a point on the Jewish calendar year when time becomes a focus. Our mitzvah is to count time during the Sefiras Ha’omer. Albeit, we have a hard time separating the mitzvah of Sefira from mourning R’ Akiva’s talmidim, which we commemorate during this tekufa. But we must remember that Sefiras Ha’omer is a mitzvah from the Torah. This means that there was 1000 years of this before R’ Akiva’s talmidim died. We should then examine just what was the Ribono Shel Olam’s intention in giving us this mitzvah. It seems pretty simplistic to do something that any child could do, count to fifty. If the counting is just to get us excited for Matan Torah, which we relive every Shavuos, why would we count up to fifty? We should be counting down if we were trying to build our excitement. We also know that there is a mitzvah to not only to count days but to also count weeks. Why would we need both if we were just generating excitement?

In the Ramban’s counting of the mitzvos, he categorizes ‘time bound mitzvos’, which are only obligatory for men, and mitzvos which are not time-bound, which are obligatory for both men and women. When listing non-time bound mitzvos, the Ramban lists Sefiras Ha’omer as one of them. This seems odd, since you are counting time and for a specific amount of time. Why would it not be then considered as a time-bound mitzvah?

Sefiras Ha’omer was given to us as the only unique mitzvah between Pesach and Shavuos, indicating that it is meant to prepare and lead us from one stage to the next. Pesach was when we became a nation. Before this, we were slaves. Slaves do not need to consider time. A slave’s time is not his own, as it is dictated by his master. With Yetzias Mitzayim, we became freed into a realm where time matters. The word in Lashon Hakodesh for time is the word “z’man.” It comes from the word hazmana, an invitation. Time is an invitation to move toward an ultimate destination, at which we arrive by utilizing that time properly.

Shavuos is when we received the Torah. Not only did we receive the Torah collectively but each Jew received his personal Torah, his personal tafkid. That purpose obligates him to become and fulfill his purpose. This can only happen by using time properly.

Time is the thing which is most easily lost. Because we think that we have so much of it, we often waste our time. Many days go by and become blurs in our vision. We are unable to differentiate and remember what we did or what happened on any specific day. The greatest tool we could develop is to appreciate and utilize the time we have.

This is the mitzvah of Sefiras Ha’omer. It is not a mitzvah to count time, but rather it is a mitzvah to make an accounting of time. To sit at the beginning of each day and think about making that day count. Planning to use it to lead into the next one. Not only is there a mitzvah to count days but also to count weeks. To see that time is collective. It builds on itself, one day being a springboard to the next. This is the ultimate preparation for the Kabolas Hatorah that happens annually on Shavuos. To enable us to appreciate time so when we are mekabel our Torah, our path in life, so that we can use our time properly to reach that tafkid. This is perhaps why the Ramban considers Sefiras Ha’omer as a non-time bound mitzvah. This is what we should be doing every day of our life.

There are moments in life where each one of us looks back and wishes they could have used time differently. People we wish we had spent more time with, things we wished we accomplished during that time, etc. The cure to this regret is to learn to make a greater accounting of our time. May we all utilize and learn to make an accounting of the time we have. By doing so, we will both individually and collectively reach the ultimate destination to which we are invited.