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Judaism does not believe in “countdowns.” In fact, the word “countdown” doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, G-d’s Divine language. For, in Judaism, every day counts. Every minute is valued. Every moment is treasured. The journey itself is the destination.

Rabbi Allouche

Which modern-day book has had a big influence on your life?

Beyond the many books that our unparalleled Jewish heritage has to offer, I would pick “The Letters of Yoni Netanyahu.” This book is a collection of personal letters penned by Yoni Netanyahu over a period of thirteen years, from high school in Philadelphia to the IDF raid at Entebbe in 1976 in which Yoni was killed while liberating over 100 hostages who were captured by evil terrorists. 

The wisdom of Yoni in his letters is nothing short of inspiring. But here is my favorite paragraph: 

“Man does not live forever. He should put the days of his life to the best possible use. He should try to live life to its fullest. How to do this I can’t tell you. I only know that I don’t want to reach a certain age, look around me and suddenly discover that I’ve created nothing. I must feel certain that, not only at the moment of my death shall I be able to account for the time I have lived, I ought to be ready at every moment of my life to confront myself and say — this is what I’ve done.”

From Passover to Shavuot, Jewish people worldwide count time. “Today is one day of the Omer,” we declare on the second evening of Passover; “Today is two days…,” the following evening, “three days…” on the next, and so on. Seven weeks later, on the Festival of Shavuot and the Giving of the Torah, we conclude the count and climb to Sinai with the statement, “today are forty-nine days, which are seven weeks of the Omer.”

But if the goal is to count the days leading to Shavuot, why didn’t our Sages institute a proper “countdown” (as my children are currently doing, to count the days until their summer vacation…)? Why don’t we designate Shavuot as the “Big Day,” and start counting 50, then 49, then 48, etc. until we arrive at the final and exciting Shavuot destination?

The reason is telling: Judaism does not believe in “countdowns.” In fact, the word “countdown” doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, G-d’s Divine language. For, in Judaism, every day counts. Every minute is valued. Every moment is treasured. The journey itself is the destination. And the days that lead us to the “Big Day” are themselves “Big Days.”

Our Sages further teach that each of these 49 days must be used for self-refinement, introspection, and action so that by the time we reach the fiftieth day, we shall have amassed forty-nine segments of time and countless purposeful actions that have brightened and elevated our world.

“To realize the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet,” a famous saying exclaims. “To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train. To realize the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.”

To realize the value of your life, dare I add, count the days leading to Shavuot, and every day thereafter. Count them. Value them. Listen to them.

You’ll sure hear them whisper: “Please, I beg of you, don’t let me go to waste. Use me,
fully, to the best of your ability!”

Shabbat shalom, and many, many blessings,
Rabbi Pinchas Allouche