We have been freed from Egypt; no longer does slavery drive us and no longer do chains bind us. We have even crossed the sea, as it split before our eyes, and thus began our journey to the mountain. I have experienced all this (as I’m sure you have as well) and I’m counting down the days until we reach the spot where they say we will receive the most precious (and priceless) of all gifts – the secret to our lives, called, or so the rumor circulates here, the Torah.
The elders, with their long white beards and even longer wise teachings, guide our travels. The priests, so celestial and removed, seem untouchable and untouched by the plights of earth. Sure, we haven’t had much water here in the wilderness, but with the heavenly water of knowledge a mere few weeks away, how can you possibly be thirsty for physical water? Of course the adults complain for lack of this and lack of that, but that’s what adults do – they complain! It is very difficult for them to focus on where they are going and on what they have to do in order to get there. That’s what grownups are like: they wish for results without working for them. Well, what would be the point anyway – if a destination wasn’t worth traveling through a few obstacles to get there, why would you want to get there?
The Torah is a gift, they say, one that cannot be bought for any amount of money nor earned by any amount of overtime. But we have to purify ourselves in order to receive its pure beauty; we have to prepare ourselves to comprehend its profundity and tap its awesomeness. It seems we even have to transcend time so that we can receive something timeless.
And so we count. We count the days of our journey and we count the ways of our refinement; by doing so, we transform our time and ourselves: we take a second, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, and we make it eternal; we take our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and we make them eternal. And, suddenly, the divine journey becomes part of the divine destination.
Wait, I’m sorry, but I really have to go. As I look up, I think I can see a mountain in the distance.
Every year we journey through the wilderness, from exile to redemption, from the confines of Egypt to the revelation of Mount Sinai. And every year the adult questions the journey: Why do we have to go through this forty-nine day trek, without the waters of our wells and the comforts of our homes to sustain us? And every year the child has to explain that sometimes in order for one to reach greatness one must first rid one’s self of weakness, for one to receive a piece of the Divine one must first give a piece of the self, for one to stand by the mountain one must first crawl through the wilderness, for one to be accountable one must first count.
It can take forty-nine days of climbing through all the distortions of a convoluted universe, forty-nine days of dusting-off the many layers that conceal our true selves (people pure and secure), forty-nine days of refining our bodies and polishing our souls, forty-nine days of counting and accounting – just to be worthy of receiving the Torah.
And once we are worthy, once we reach the destination – what then? Well, that’s a different question.
The question now is: Do we count?
Mendel Jacobson is a 23-year-old writer, poet and journalist working for The Algemeiner Journal. Mendel’s education has found him in New York, Budapest and Jerusalem and he has been blogging for close to 3 years at jakeyology.blogspot.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.