The mitzvah to count the days of the Sefirah period offers keen insight into the way that we view our purpose and role in this world. Harav Samson Raphael Hirsch, zt”l, (Collected Writings, Vol. I, Feldheim, p. 114) explains that the reason that we count beginning with the offering of the korban omer on the second day of Pesach is to dismiss any notion that our sense of fulfillment rests exclusively with our material successes (as represented by the harvest of the early barley crop).
When Israel has already reached the point which for other peoples represents the ultimate goal of nationalist endeavor, when it already has freedom and independence, land and soil, fruit and grain on its own fields and meadows, at the stage where others cease to strive further and to count, there Israel first begins to count, both days and weeks. And it goes on counting up to the day when it celebrates the bestowal of [the Torah].
For other nations, a booming harvest is alone a reason to rejoice. Farmers invest much time and effort into its success, and entire nations rely on it for their collective sustenance. But the Torah, in instructing us to count from the day of the harvest, reminds us that it is just the beginning, the means through which we can begin to focus on our loftier purpose, receiving the Torah.
This is the deeper connection between Sefirah and the period that links Pesach to Shavuos. Harav Hirsch writes in Horeb (pp. 84–90) that each of the Regalim represents a different aspect within the development of the Jewish nation. On Pesach our nation experienced its physical birth; for the first time we began to develop as an independent nation. Shavuos, on the other hand, represents our nation’s spiritual birth. Only with the acceptance of the Torah could we recognize our true, spiritual essence, fundamentally separating ourselves from all other nations.
The true fulfillment of Pesach occurs through its Atzeres, Shavuos. It is then that we infuse deeper meaning to our national identity, well beyond the limitations of physicality and material bounty. But we cannot simply “arrive” at this level of sanctity. It takes continuous work and effort, a step-by-step approach that elevates us from the spiritual dregs of Egypt to the loftiness of Sinai. That’s where the upward counting of Sefirah comes in.
In a sense, the Torah is advancing a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking that goes beyond the conventional understanding of who we are and what we are here to achieve. Without a moral compass, it is easy to get lost in the moment and celebrate successes defined in material terms. Sefirah teaches us to remain doggedly focused on a bigger prize, a goal that is far more valuable than a robust harvest or any other material reward.
Shifts in paradigm do not only occur in terms of global thought processes or national attitudes. Such changes reflect any modification from one way of thinking to another in a manner that transcends the current reality. To engage in such a shift is to get past your limiting beliefs and adjust your perspective from who you think you are to who you truly are, which is an individual with incalculable potential.
Coaching is a process that helps people see beyond their current way of thinking and discover new possibilities. It recognizes that people are naturally creative, resourceful and self-aware, and uses questioning techniques and focused dialogue to push limits and explore new possibilities. It asks probing questions about what is really important (often towards the goal of creating a personal and/or organizational vision and mission statement) and seeks to help people live lives that are filled with passion and purpose.
Coaching offers people a thinking partner, someone with whom to investigate and reveal underlying patterns of operating. Oftentimes, these patterns undermine your ability to achieve the way that you wish to.
Coaching should not be confused with therapy. Therapy focuses on the past and how to remedy behaviors and thought processes. It is an important process in supporting people in developing a strong ego structure in order to live in well-being in the present.
In contrast, coaching is transformational and forward thinking. It focuses on future aspirations and encourages practices that exercise, strengthen and expand people’s capacity to achieve their desired results. We all have dreams, but too many of us are afraid of pursuing them for fear of what lies in the great unknown. Coaching attracts people who are willing to take a leap into the unknown territory of their future. It is far more powerful than problem-solving, which addresses the symptom but not the root cause of the symptom. Discovering the root cause gives you choice where presently there appears to be none.
May we merit utilizing the Sefirah period properly, to focus ourselves on our true purpose and aspirations, a climb that will bring us, b’ezras Hashem, to the loftiest levels of sanctity, holiness and self-fulfillment.
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is an executive coach, writer and educator living in Passaic, NJ. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.