The period between Passover and Shavuot, the festivals of liberation and the giving of the Torah, is marked by the Counting of the Omer.1 In a sense the festival of Shavuot is a fulfillment, a climax, of Passover. In terms of the Jewish people, the significance is obvious — Israel was not a nation by virtue of freedom alone but by virtue of the Torah. What does this mean to the individual?

Freedom became real only when it was given directionTorah gives life a purpose, a pattern that gives significance to the commonplace. The mitzvot impart spiritual importance even to the ordinaries of living; they make the Jew conscious always of his interested Creator. At no time is the Jew ever "free"; there is always a standard by which every action is judged. He has no privileged sanctuary as a refuge from responsibility. During work and meals and worship and recreation equally, the pattern of Torah makes these activities avenues to G‑d.

Freedom for the Jew is release from oppression but not from self-control. Passover permits man to develop freely, with no interference by anyone with his religious activities. This freedom became real only when it was given direction, when the Torah showed man what man can become. Passover and Shavuot are complementary festivals, deliberately connected by the Counting of the Omer to stress their inseparability. Together they teach us that achievement in this world is not abandon but adult discharge of productive obligations.