| A Different Counting Shavuos 5782 |

A Thousand Lifetimes of Waiting         

  The words leap off the page, suddenly so much more real than prayers mumbled


y eyes have wasted away, watching for Your salvation, saying, when will You comfort me?

Had you told me when I was twelve, on that gentle cusp of adulthood, that most of my future life would be spent waiting, watching for Your salvation,

I would have laughed.

I would have snorted in contempt.

Had I believed it, I would have ended it all.

The words leap off the page, suddenly so much more real than prayers mumbled.

Waiting. Watching for Your salvation.

Counting the days.


The whole thing, every day, for forty days. I remembered the story in family lore, how my ancestor had been answered that way. I would do it too.

The first few days I managed. It got harder and harder, my exhaustion compounding, and… and how was I supposed to make Pesach while saying Tehillim all day?

Pushing, pushing, desperately counting down to the finish line.

Seder night, the fortieth night. The Heavens themselves cracking open with thunder and lightning, promising me the world on this night of miracles—

Shir Hashirim. I would say it for forty days. Surely it would arouse Heavenly mercy.

Counting, dragging myself through the days, focusing through tears. Concentrate. Almost there—

Daven three times a day, I was told. Surely that would bring a yeshuah. Daven, daven, daven, every day, day after day, after day after day after endless day—

The mekubal gave me papers with pesukim. Say them for forty days, he said, and you will see yeshuos. Forcing myself through the long read, forty days was so long—

Get rid of your Internet, I was told, and you will merit yeshuos b’karov. I only learned how viciously hard that was after it was done. My connection to the world unplugged, I counted the days. How long was b’karov? How many days could it be? How many months could it be? Surely now, today, tomorrow, next week… next year?

Go walk by the sea as a segulah, I was told. I watched the endless blue on the horizon, prayed in solitude walking through the sand, waiting, watching, hoping, counting the days—

I was advised to say Tehillim, the whole Tehillim, as much as possible. I said it every week. It took all I had. Counting, week after week after month after month after month—

And then I stopped, because I couldn’t anymore, and a long year passed, and things only got worse. I pulled out my Tehillim, and started again, the words jumping out at me, fading out into the tired fog of another day, day after day after week after month—

Walking in the dead of night, down alleys and streets and highways, walking, walking, walking, knowing that no one could hear me but Him, pressing myself against walls, black on black, talking to Him, pouring out my heart to Him, crying to Him, night after night after night. Surely after enough nights He would answer!

Trusting Him, letting go of all my fears and all my skepticism and all my cynicism.

Falling onto the concrete and giving up.

And again, months or years later, pulling together everything I had, and everything I didn’t have, giving it up, giving it over into His hands, trusting Him to take care of me with revealed good

And falling to the concrete again.

Yamim Tovim — a beacon on the shore, my only source of hope. Counting the strokes of my oars until I would reach the land they promised.

Rosh Hashanah is coming, when all is laid open for rebirth. Succos is coming, when He wants only to embrace us. Kislev is coming, aura of miracles blazing through darkness. Tu B’Shevat is coming, time of renewal. Purim is coming, salvation reaching out from nature. Pesach is coming, night of glorious redemption.

And oh, how I counted to Shavuos, each and every year. The numbers held a promise, a story of something great yet untold. Despite everything, my worn and tired and ever-more cynical eyes could not help but light up.  Counting down to the day when we are one with our G-d—

Surely then He would answer?

And now I am reaching the end. The end of my strength, the end of my counting.

The end of counting.

I have learned many things along my journey, and yet I have learned nothing at all.

I have learned that so many people do not understand, perhaps because they do not truly understand suffering.

I have learned that friends can fall by the wayside when things get rough. Nobody likes the really ugly.

I have learned that as many inspiring stories and inspiring speeches you hear, they won’t always happen to you.

I have learned that you can turn to Hashem with a broken heart, call to your Father when no one else is left, sobbing, crying, Abba Abba Abba, and still not get an answer.

What have I learned?

I have learned that sometimes He supervises through the window, clear as glass, for all to see.

And sometimes, He peeks through the cracks, so fast that I’m not even sure if I saw it or not. Signs of hope, teases of salvation, flashes in the dark that say Someone is there. Peeking through the cracks.

Though the door is barred as I pound.

What have I learned?

All I have learned is that I don’t know anything, I don’t understand anything, and neither does anyone else.

The words jump out from the pages of Tehillim.

And I, to You I still scream, Hashem, and in the morning my prayers will still greet You.

On the night our ancestors walked through split seas, I once more gave Him my full trust in miracles. I told Him that I am waiting.

Shavuos is coming, and I am waiting.

And yet, I count still. 5


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 795)

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