Counting More Than Time
On Passover, G-d took the Jews out of Egypt, but He did not take Egypt out of the Jews. He liberated our people from slavery, but did not change their slave mentality. That task, the refinement of their individual nature and the cultivation of their spiritual personalities, He left to the people themselves.
This pattern is not merely a story of the past. Every year on Passover, G-d takes us out of Egypt, giving us the opportunity to experience spiritual liberation. But after Passover, He asks us to internalize that experience and make our spiritual heights part of our own personal framework. And the responsibility for this endeavor He entrusts to us.
We cannot expect spiritual growth and heightened consciousness to happen by itself or to be granted to us from Above on a consistent basis. Instead, Judaism has always put the emphasis on personal initiative. It is we ourselves who will change ourselves.
This endeavor is a life long task for each of us, 365 days a year for every year of our lives. Nevertheless, every year, a period of time is set aside when these efforts become the focus of our attention.
This reflects the spiritual significance of Sefiras HaOmer, the period of 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuos.
The Hebrew word Sefirah means "counting."
Every night we count one of these 49 days. But Sefirah also means "shining." During these 49 days, we should endeavor to make our personalities shine.
According to the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, we have seven fundamental emotional qualities. These qualities then interrelate, combining each one with another to form the full range of human feeling. Seven times seven equals 49, the number of days mentioned above. This is not coincidental, for the cultivation of our spiritual personalities during these 49 days involves the refinement of our emotions, eliminating their coarseness and directing them to G-dliness.
As we work to upgrade our emotional potential, we prepare ourselves to relive the experience of the giving of the Torah on the holiday of Shavuos.