Count on Change
I used to count everything. I’d sit in synagogue and count the panes in the stained glass windows, the lights on the yahrzeit board, and the steps to the bema. I couldn’t stop. I’d count the steps from my room to the front door and the links on my bracelet. To fall asleep, I’d count backwards from 100. Counting helped me measure distance, understand space, and mark time.
Years later, I found myself counting something much different. When crossing the street, I tripped on a pothole and fell to my knees. By the time I got myself to the curb, I felt pain in my left foot. To calm down and distract myself, I counted, breathed slowly, and tried to will the pain away. It didn’t work. After 24 hours, I went to the emergency room. I’d broken my foot. At that point, I started counting differently — seven days on painkillers, 12 physical therapy sessions, six weeks in a boot and one walking cane.
In the blur of this time, a friend shared with me the story of Solomon and his ring, an apocryphal story drawn from Persian traditions. King Solomon challenged his advisers to invent a riddle that would always be true. After endless hours of discussion, his advisers created, gam zeh ya’avor or “this too shall pass.” Solomon was so taken with the phrase that he wore a ring with the inscription.
My friend told me the story to remind me that my bones would heal and that six weeks would pass in the blink of an eye (as did 60 taxi rides paid for by workers’ compensation and a generous employer). And it did.
Change is the one constant in the universe. Whatever is causing us pain right now will subside. But so too, whatever is bringing us joy will also dissipate.
Eventually, I merged counting and the awareness of “this” too shall pass. Once I marked time in a deliberate and measured fashion; now I try to appreciate the passage of time for what it offers — the gift of growing into challenges, the beautiful ones and the awful ones.
This is the Omer. We count until we get to a full seven days of seven weeks. The joy and the sorrow of this time; it will pass. And yet, we still count. At least once during these 49 days, we will be bored — waiting for something and counting the moments — but that too will pass. At least once as we count our way through the Omer, we will look into the eyes of someone we love, do something that brings joy, and be rewarded with the bliss of making someone happy. That too will pass.
Whatever it is that you count, count. Measure and acknowledge the passage of time, in ways that are sacred, and recognize that time can be filled with opportunities for blessing and growth. While each moment may feel the same, we know that too will pass. We appreciate that with time, we will change.
One in a series from our inaugural Blog B'Omer.
Sara Shapiro-Plevan is the Founder of Rimonim Consulting.