Forty Nine Days
Today are sixteen days, which are two weeks
and two days of the Omer
Counting of the Omer for Iyar 1
We are accustomed to thinking of time as a fixed yardstick
against which our lives are measured. We pass through
time (or time passes us by) at an unalterable pace. Time deeply
affects everything about us and everything we do, but we have
no effect upon it.
Physical science has since refuted this cursory perception
of time, demonstrating how time, like any other physical phenomenon,
is in fact quite malleable. It can be concentrated, stretched,
speeded up, slowed down, or stopped altogether. This, of course,
is achieved mostly on paper or by computer simulation. In
practice, times dictatorial rule of our lives seems
absolute. The irrevocability of the past, the uncompromising
temporality of the present, the impregnable fog of the futureman
still seems very much a creature subject to time, rather than
the other way around.
The Torah, however, insists that man can master time, transcend
it, and redefine it. One example of mans triumph over
time is teshuvah (return)the power
to reach back in time and transform the significance of ones
And time itself, according to Torah, is a resource to be molded
and developed by man, as man is charged to mold and develop
all resources of G-ds creation. Time can be sanctifiedmade
more porous and absorbent of the all-pervading reality of
its Creatoras it is when it is utilized toward good
and G-dly ends. Time can be imbued with joy, freedom, love,
awe, wisdom and a host of other spiritual characteristicsas
we do when we set the calendar and thereby determine the dates
of the festivals. And time can be accumulated.
From Passover to Shavuot, we conduct a daily count of the
days and weeks in reenactment of the forty-nine-day process
of self-refinement which our ancestors underwent from their
exodus from Egypt on the first day of Passover to the revelation
at Sinai on Shavuot. Today is one day of the Omer,
we pronounce on the second evening of Passover; Today
are two days..., we say on the following evening; Today
are three days... on the next, and so on. Seven weeks
later we conclude the count and climb to Sinai with the statement,
Today are forty-nine days, which are seven weeks of
Two questions come to mind concerning the manner of the count.
If we are counting the days to Sinai, why dont we state
how many remain until Shavuot, instead of the number that
have passed since Passover? Also, Today are two days
seems awkward if not inaccurate; would it not be more correct
to say, Today is the second day, Today is
the third day, and so on?
But we do not merely pass through the days between Passover
and Shavuotwe accumulate them. Each of these forty-nine
days embodies another spiritual achievementthe refinement
of another aspect of our personality and character. Each of
these days becomes a component of our reborn selves, as we
internalize the freedom obtained at the Exodus as the essence
of our commitment to G-d as His chosen people. On the second
day of the count, we possess two days of the Omer process;
by its final day, we shall have amassed forty-nine units of
time, and the specific qualities they embody, with which to
approach this years experience of Sinai.
Based on numerous talks and writings by the Rebbe, including
a letter dated Nissan 28, 5724 (April 10, 1964)
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
 Talmud, Yoma 86b; Tanya, ch. 7.
 Likkutei Sichot, vol. VII, p. 284.