As we approach the reunion of G‑d and the Jewish People on the occasion of the giving of the Torah, every Jew is called upon to perform a very special kind of spiritual inventory. We are told which specific spiritual aspect of ourselves we are to examine and rectify each day in a 49 day period. We are also enjoined to keep a verbal count of how many days have passed and which day we are on. This process is called the Counting of the Omer.

Sensing our own inability to think and act clearly, we simply did as we were toldThroughout the year — and indeed, every day — we Jews are called upon to perform very specific tasks, often at very specific times (for sometimes very unspecific reasons!). The Counting of the Omer is no exception. Why is it that there are so many detailed obligations for living as a Jew?


Those of us in recovery know well the venom of "stinkin' thinkin'." We've experienced the repercussions of relying solely on our own perceptions and judgments. When we use pre-recovery methods to navigate life... we might get in trouble. Let us never forget that experience, lest we return to our old ways. What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. To think that we could expect life to be good while taking no meaningful action is the essence of unmanageability.

So what could we do now to make our life more manageable?

We Came

For that answer, we came. Not knowing exactly what we would find, we at first simply showed up when and where we were supposed to. As newcomers, we listened. Sensing our own inability to think and act clearly, we simply did as we were told: get a sponsor, read the book, be of service, work the steps. And keep coming!

Somehow, as a result of having "came" — repeatedly — we eventually "came to." Having placed our will into the hands of the program, we experienced a new awareness of our potential to lead healthy lives. And finally, having made that spiritual discovery, we "came to believe." We came to recognize the dynamics of a relationship with a Power greater than ourselves, in whose Will our recovery lay. Believing meant recognizing that implementing the steps of the program and our serenity, were synonymous.

Over 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people, too, came. Men, women and children showed up at the foot of Mount Sinai, where they would receive, for the first time, the Torah. Only seven weeks earlier, the very same people stood steeped in the mental, physical, and spiritual disease of slavery in Egypt — a condition unparalleled before and since. Yet as they trembled at Sinai, beneath G‑d's mountain, they collectively resolved to accept His Will upon themselves, whatever it might be.

If You Work It, It Works... And Then Some

For a Jewish person, there is an additional life we "manage"But let's backtrack a moment. The Jews, prior to receiving the Torah, had worked to refine themselves 49 degrees in the course of 49 days. So why is it then, as we learn in Kabbalah, that at the moment the Torah was given, each person had the benefit of not 49 levels of refinement, but 50? The answer is: the power of the Jewish soul - the neshamah.

For anyone in recovery, there's no doubt that having specifically prescribed remedies for life's challenges makes everything more manageable. The benefit of knowing when to do which step is what keeps us sane and sober. Working the 12 Steps and following a program of recovery improves one's quality of life in ways that were previously unimaginable. But for a Jewish person, there is an additional life we "manage." That is the wholly spiritual life of our neshamah. Inconspicuous, a Jewish person's soul may live an entire life in this world either with purposefulness and vibrancy, or tragically, in suffering. In either case, the results are not random. When we implement the uniquely Jewish program of living as described in the 613 commandments of the Torah, we nurture the most important and immortal aspect of ourselves: our Jewish soul.

Straddling the worlds of the divine and the mundane, the neshamah brings infinite energies into our finite endeavors — for good or evil. When we do mitzvot as they are prescribed in the Torah, we not only accept G‑d's Will, we actually bring G‑d's presence into the world. Eating kosher food invites G‑d into our action of fulfilling a most basic need — nutrition — making our bodies more sensitive to holiness. Following the guidelines of Jewish family purity incorporates G‑d as a partner in our marriage and in the health of the entire family. Lighting Shabbat candles connects our physical bodies and environment with the spiritually-heightened quality of the day G‑d separated to be holy.

When we do mitzvot, we not only strengthen the health of our neshamah, we bring upon ourselves a dimension of holiness that is otherwise beyond our ability to attain. And therefore, a person who puts 49 measures of effort into their Jewish soul's recovery through the counting of the omer — because G‑d said so — actually achieves 50! When a Jewish person commits to the recovery of his or her neshamah, we not only accomplish more for ourselves, but ultimately, we partner with G‑d Almighty in the recovery of His people, and the recovery of the entire world.