1. This gathering is being held after the Pesach holiday, in the midst of the counting of the Omer, and during the weeks in which Pirkei Avos is customarily studied. These three are interrelated and each contributes to the influence of the other.

To explain the above: Pesach represents the birth of the Jewish people as implied by the verse, “to take a nation from the insides of a nation with miracles, signs, and wonders.” Each year, we commemorate and relive these events and thus, each year, the Jewish people’s coming into being is renewed.

When we gather together shortly after this festival, we are inspired to think deeply about this matter, appreciate the opportunity and responsibility which it presents us, and, therefore, use these days to begin a new approach to all aspects of Jewish practice.

The counting of the Omer is begun on the day after Pesach. After G‑d has brought the Jewish people into being through a process of revelation from above (“The King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, revealed Himself to them... and redeemed them”), there begins a new order of service ascending from below to above. Each day adds a new aspect of service in a step-by-step progression, going from chessed sheb’chessed to gevurah sheb’chessed, until one has elevated all his emotional qualities.

[The new level a person reaches each day also adds to his service of the previous days. This is reflected in the expression we use when counting the Omer. The literal translation of the Hebrew is not “Today is the _th day of the Omer,” but rather, “Today is _ days of the Omer,” emphasizing the cumulative effect, how each day includes and elevates the service of the previous day.]

The study of Pirkei Avos contributes an additional dimension to the above. Pirkei Avos begins, “Moshe received the Torah — i.e., the entire Torah, the written law, the oral law, and any new concept to be developed by an experienced sage — from Sinai.” This emphasizes that, in addition to the achievements of our day to day service during the counting of the Omer, at the very beginning of this service, we are able to appreciate its culmination. We are told about the giving of the Torah, the goal for which the counting of the Omer prepares us.

The Torah commands us to count seven weeks1 and requires that this counting be “perfect,” without the omission of a single day. Nevertheless, even before a Jew has completed this service, the Torah acts on the assumption that he will complete it in a “perfect” manner and tells him how he receives the Torah.2

May every one of the assembled do all that is necessary to fulfill these directives. If he does so, he will be successful as our Sages promised: “If you apply effort, you will find.”3 The above is particularly true when this gathering is being held in a synagogue and a house of study, a place where people accept good resolutions. Furthermore, many people have gathered together and gathered together in a spirit of unity. Accordingly, even when each individual departs for his home, this departure will not weaken these feelings of unity. On the contrary, it will only strengthen the longing we share to be together. Furthermore, this separation is only temporary, until the coming of the Messianic redemption.

We will conclude by charging each person to act as an agent to distribute tzedakah (and to add to the amount given according to the generosity of his heart). May the merit of this tzedakah bring success in all matters of holiness and, in our Sages’ words, “bring close the redemption.”