#BlogElul 12: Count

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

Muhammad Ali

This quote, and the intention behind it, are well-meaning enough. Spend a little time with it, sit with it, let it roll around your brain for a moment or two, and you get the point. If you’re just checking time off your calendar or day planner, waiting for the next “big” thing to happen, you’re missing all the could-be-big things in between now and then. In each and every second, there’s the potential for something big.

Again, I GET it.

But I gotta tell you, living like that can be exhausting. Pushing every second of every day; pushing harder; trying to jam more meaning into the same 24 hours; constantly wondering if you did enough. Noticed enough. Cherished enough. Can you burn out on gratitude? I think you can.

“The yetzer ha-ra speaks to us with two voices,” Rabbi Adler z”l once said to me. “The voice we recognize is the one yelling at us to stop doing mitzvot (or to start doing aveirot). Telling us with a sincere and convincing voice how pointless all these rules are, how easy it would be to just do what feels right.”

“But there’s another voice, a voice we often miss – because it’s quieter than the first voice, but also because we hear it as the voice of someone who was an authority in our lives. Maybe a coach. Maybe a parent. Maybe a boss. Maybe it speaks with our own voice. And it says “You think THAT’S some big deal mitzvah? You think THAT is going to move the bar? You should be ashamed of yourself. You have to do more than that just to deserve to be in this room!”

“And that voice,” he continued. “THAT voice is the deadly one. Because it sounds so much like our own insecurities – it IS our insecurities, personified – that we either burn ourselves up trying to meet its impossible expectations, or we burn out and stop entirely.”

We should live for today, in the sense that we should be open and available and ready should an opportunity come our way – whether that opportunity is to do a mitzvah, or to make a meaningful memory with someone we care about, or to lay the foundation for a future goodness.

A time to plant, a time to sow.

But also a time to rest. A time float in the stream of time and get caught up in a gentle eddy that carries us under a shady tree and nudges up against the bank.

That counts, too. It counts for a lot.

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