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Peaks and Plateaus

Peaks and Plateaus

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It’s interesting how we humans use time. We take one-365th part of it, outline it in red crayon, and call it our “birthday.” Other fractions are defined as “wedding anniversary,” “vacation” and an assortment of holidays and remembrance days. Each is appropriately designated for happiness, relaxation, sadness, whatever.

Instead of learning how to merge our lives with its flow, we prefer to relate only to bits and pieces of it. Instead of connecting to the totality of time, we focus on the few small, heavily bordered segments to which we can ascribe some unique quality or function.

We are looking for specialness. Everything else just is, and as such is unworthy of our energy or attention. For the human psyche, routine is synonymous with tedium, regularity with vacuity.

Is that really how we are? It is, but only on the surface. Delve deeper, and you will find that the truly satisfying areas of our lives, the things which we most value, are the routine, perpetual parts. Consciously, we seek the special; subconsciously (more correctly, supra-consciously), our deepest strivings are for the regular.


The spiritual time to which our souls tick likewise consists of both peaks and plateaus.

Employing our sense of specialty and occasion are the Divinely ordained “appointments in time”: Shabbat inserts a bubble of tranquility into our lives’ ceaseless churning; Passover introduces freedom into our lives, Rosh Hashanah imbues them with awe, Simchat Torah invigorates them with joy. We have once-a-week mitzvot, once-a-month mitzvot, once-a-year mitzvot, even once-in-a-lifetime mitzvot. The rarity of their occurrence make them “special events” in our lives, and as such, that much more meaningful and impactful.

And then there are the “regular” mitzvot—prayer, Torah study, tefillin, kashrut—that become interwoven into our lives’ routine. These ensure that our spiritual self is not elevated/banished to the sublimity of specialness, but is made part and parcel of our basic, daily self.

There is one mitzvah, however, that straddles both these time-modes, drawing on both the specialty of the occasional and the realness of the regular.

The mitzvah is the “Counting of the Omer” with which we annually re-experience our forefathers’ 49-day spiritual journey from the Exodus to Sinai. Every evening for seven weeks, from the second night of Passover to the eve of Shavuot, we verbalize the day’s number in the count, accumulating the day’s distinct contribution toward the endeavor of perfecting the 49 powers of our souls and becoming fit receptacles for the divine gift of Torah.

As a mitzvah associated with a particular time of the year, the Counting of the Omer evokes in us the sense of occasion that is the hallmark of the seasonal mitzvah. At the same time, for a period spanning seven full weeks, this annual event becomes a fixed part of our daily schedules.

Therein also lies the specialty of the month of Iyar, which begins about a week after the Passover festival. The entire month of Iyar falls within the Omer count. This means that while the other months of the Jewish year serve as the background for their special days, the month of Iyar is its special days. In other months there are spiritual highs surrounded by a plain of ordinariness; in Iyar, the everyday becomes special and specialness becomes routine.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Rachelli May 6, 2015

Very well written Reply

Anonymous Lodz, Poland April 29, 2010

+ wise. simply wise. Reply

Anonymous Belleview , Florida April 18, 2009

A special thank you to relate to Omar Yes, we have the moment and the all. Most live in the moment while a few live in the expansion of the Living King. What came from Him is always a part of us, because His is never changing. We should strive to return the favor in the unity of G-dliness. There is no ordinariness in these actions. Reply

Esther Tauby Richmond, Canada May 3, 2006

Thank you Rabbi Tauber for explaining the concept of the Omer so eloquently and relating it to our everyday lives. Reply

Eric S. Kingston April 23, 2006

Time Dear Yanki,
You wrote: "Instead of learning how to merge our lives with its (times) flow, we prefer to relate only to bits and pieces of it." This is the "goal" of those on the road of "enlightenment", to merge with the flow of time, but one has to live (in/on all (Kol) levels in the living here-and-now moment. The here- and-now moment where past, present and future are one. One has to "To let go and let G-d" and "that, my friend, (as Bruce Lee said) is very difficult to do." Reply