By Shira Jackson, US Educator

Counting days. Normally we count down to see how many days are left until a big event, as we are willing away the time. At the time of writing, it is Day 194 since the barbaric attack of Hamas on Israel and so many hostages were taken. As we count up, each day that has passed takes on a greater significance. Which opportunities have been forever lost in the passing of the day and what accomplishments have been achieved? For those in captivity – and their families – each passing day is an irretrievable loss; for those who are free, each day is an opportunity to help, to give, to support and to grow.

The Counting of the Omer, the period between Pesach and Shavuot, is unique in that it is both a counting from and a counting to. We count 50 days from our birth as a nation, the day we left our painful slavery in Egypt and became a free people, free to choose to follow the path that God lays out for us. At the same time, we are counting upward to a great event, Shavuot, when God appeared to us and gave us His Torah, a unique event in world history! In declaring the Ten Commandments (literally, the Ten Sayings), God gave us the principles of how we are to live our lives, a nation bound by a commitment to His laws both ritual and interpersonal.

Our mission as individuals and as a nation has remained the same ever since: to sanctify God’s name in the world and be a light unto the nations, to look out for each other and build a world of kindness founded on His vision of morality.

On Shavuot, we read the story of Ruth, a wealthy princess, the daughter of the King of Moav (modern-day Jordan), a nation which was always at war with Israel. Ruth left her family and riches behind to move to Bet Lechem in the Land of Israel with her mother-in-law, and to become an integral part of the Jewish nation. Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David, the first of a dynasty of kings that stretches all the way to the Messiah himself.

Did Ruth know what journey she would take or where she would end up? She became the mother of royalty! It was a most unlikely destination as, on her arrival in Bet Lechem, she was disparagingly known as “Ruth the Moabitess” (e.g. Ruth 2:2,6). It was Ruth’s unswerving loyalty and kindness to her mother-in-law and then her decision to marry Boaz instead of “one of the young men” (see Ruth 3:10) that singled her out for greatness. Boaz recognised this, as did the women of the town, who blessed her that she should be “like Rachel and Leah who built up the House of Israel” (Ruth 4:11).

Everything that Ruth did contributed to the person she became, someone who made every day count. Taking our cue from Ruth, so should we.

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