Did you ever have to explain to a child when to say “how much” and when to say “how many”? You may recall explaining that we use “many” for counting individual items, like rocks or trees, and “much” for counting collective items, like sugar or mail. Counting is an integral part of our daily existence.
And counting is exactly what is happening right now in our Jewish calendar as part of counting the Omer, the 49-day period between the second day of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. The Omer marks the beginning of the barley harvest, when, in Biblical times, Israelites would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of giving thanks for the harvest.
We count so many things: characters in Twitter; emails in our inbox; items on our To Do list; days until our birthday; the stars in the sky marking the end of Shabbat. From the earliest days of our tradition, people have also been counted. The Israelites were counted as part of a census in the Torah’s book of Numbers for many reasons, but my favorite is that they were counted because, even as individuals, they were an important part of the group. Being counted identifies us as part of a community, and our presence matters.
One example of counting that I think about often is how many people we count on to support the work of our greater Jewish community, and why this is so important. If you are one of the 2,633 people who support the work of Jewish Federation & Family Services, I say thank you for standing up and being counted. The “how many” outshines the “how much” when looking at our JFFS Annual Campaign. We all play a part, we all have a role, and we all share the responsibility. If you have yet to add your name to our numbers, I invite you to join us. Your participation counts.