By Rabbi Shaya Deitsch
While you were on your way to the polls or at home in protest or apathy for last week’s primary midterm elections, did the inevitable thought creep up on you: “Why do I even bother? Does one vote even matter?” Spiraling further into self-depreciation, you may have even compared yourself to the “big decision makers” and questioned your right to have a say at all: “Who am I to have an opinion?”
True, our democracy gives us this right to vote, but beyond this right, does it really count for anything?
As we think about counting, and whether our counting—well, counts—it may have thematically dawned on us that we have just finished counting down the Omer, the tradition of counting the days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot. Daily, we verbally counted as a community and as individuals—one day of the Omer, two days and so forth for the last 49-days.
But just as in the voting booth, we may have that same thought: “Why?” Why is it so important that we count? What is our voice’s significance?
To break it down, counting the Omer has three aspects to it:
- honoring the validity of counting in its own right.
- recognizing that we are counting something of importance.
- understanding that in the act of counting, we are elevating a mundane day into a holy day.
In regards to counting down the Omer, all of the days become “holy” as a result of our counting. In the larger and more philosophical sense, it is through the practice of making our voice heard that we bring importance to something, and in turn, gain ownership of that importance. It is this symbiotic relationship that answers our earlier question: our act of counting is what makes something count.
When we as Jews have our voices heard through the polls, our votes connect us to the “big decision makers” we elect and the policies they enact. In that sense, those resulting policies become our policies, in ownership and responsibility.
This analogy provides some insight into why G-d wants us to count each and every day as we approach the holiday of Shavuot—which was on Saturday, May 19 this year—the day that celebrates receiving the Torah. Through our anticipation and counting, we form a personal bond with the holiday and give it its relevance and importance. As such, in order to make the Torah “ours,” we have to “vote” for it. We have to make it count. Taking this idea another theological step forward, it is also through the means of our counting, and through our voice, that we elevate the world around us into a holy place for G-d.
So as to whether we really matter in the grand scheme of things—you can count on it!
Rabbi Deitsch is the spiritual leader of Lubavitch of Montgomery County.