Rabbi Greisman's Blog



If you happened to have traveled on our Interstate highway during the last few days you may have noticed that I-540 has been renamed I-49. It is less likely, though, that you noticed the date this change took effect. It was on Wednesday, April 16.

Typically, I wouldn't either notice this seemingly trivial fact, but the reason I did notice is because this year April 16 coincided with the day we began the annual "counting of the Omer." And how many days do we count for the Omer each year? You got it! 49 days.

So what do highways and the Omer have to do with each other?

Several days before Pesach, Dobi and I visited a friend in Fayetteville, and since he is as much of a night owl as we are, our visit lasted past midnight. Driving home close to 1:00 AM, on the then I-540, I noticed about two dozen workers at the amphitheater site just north of exit 82. I have no idea why they were working so late but I am sure there was good reason, perhaps an impending deadline or something similar. 

Whatever the reason was, it probably had little to do with the workers themselves, as they probably couldn't care less about the deadline. They were there for one reason only: their Job. They wanted to keep their job; and sometimes you need to work at 1:00 AM in order to keep your job.

This reminded me of another story.

A couple of years ago I was on a flight to Chicago. If you ever had the good fortune of sitting on the last two rows on one of those little jets we get here at XNA, you know that one needs to shout over the loud engines in order to carry a normal conversation. So here I am, seated at the row before the last, overtired and trying to fall asleep, only to be repeatedly disturbed by the group behind me, carrying a very loud conversation. After twenty minutes of failed attempts, I gave up on sleeping, and without being given a choice I was eavesdropping on a very loud conversation. 

The woman in the row behind me was telling everyone how when she arrived to the Montreal airport that morning she realized she left her wallet at home. The airport parking lot system there is such that one needs to dip a credit card when entering the lot and use the same card when exiting. This way the system determines the length of the parking and charges the card. So not having a credit card equals no parking.

"I soon realized that if I don't park now, I will miss my flight, which means I will miss my Walmart meeting, which means my boss will be very unhappy, which may likely mean that I will be fired. So I sat there thinking: It's my car or my job. Which is more important? I turned off the road and left my car right there. I hope I have a car when I get back home tonight."

So when this woman realized what's at stake, she concluded that her car was meaningless if it means not having her job.

And keeping our job makes people do all sorts of crazy things, like building amphitheaters at 1:00 AM.

When we left Egypt on Passover, G-d gave us a job: In seven weeks you will receive the Torah. Get ready! Examine yourself, refine and cleanse yourself from the impurities of Egypt.

Every year we take that 49 day highway once again, reliving the preparation to receive the Torah; examining, correcting and refining every detail of our personality. Making sure the "I" uses the "49" to become the best Jew it can be. Fit to do our job: To accept and live the Torah way.

(According to Kaballah we have seven character traits, and each includes the other seven, so we need 49 days to refine each detail of our personality. See here for more on the subject.)

While we're already in day ten of the 49 day journey, it is not too late to get on the highway. By asking ourselves "Is it my car or my job?" "What is my mission on this world?" "What does G-d want me to do during these 49 days?" we are sure to cruise the highway and arrive at Sinai as proud Jews (and the third lane they're adding will certainly help.)

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