I recently read that there are plans to revive NASA with the possible goal of sending a man to Mars. This brought back memories of the NASA space launches that put the first man on the Moon. Many of us remember watching the launchings along with millions around the globe. How exciting and how nerve‐wracking. The most exciting and even nerve‐wracking part of these launchings was the countdown. The head of the NASA launch team would announce in a serious and somewhat concerned tone of voice, “ten, nine, eight, seven...” ‐ going down to the number one, at which time the rocket was launched. The purpose of the countdown was to make sure all the systems necessary for a safe and successful launch were checked and found to be in working order. If not, the mission would be aborted to avoid the possibility of danger. This time of year, we count each day between Pesach and Shavuot. On Shavuot, we celebrate the launching, so to speak, of our Jewish way of life, with the giving of the Torah. For us it is not merely an historical reminiscence, because on that day each of us asked to accept the Torah in a personal way by renewing our commitment to Judaism. Just as the countdown served as an opportunity to check to see if all systems were working, so Shavuot and the counting of the Omer provides us with the opportunity to see if the systems that enable us to live Jewish life are in working condition. I think there are three systems that need to work for Judaism to continue. They are presence, knowledge and generosity. The first question we should ask ourselves in our countdown is, “Am I present? Do I show up at Jewish activities such as synagogue services, lectures and programs?” Remember, Woody Allen said that "showing up is nine tenths of what life is about." If you are not there, you lose the connection. You are missed ; don’t think that your absence is not felt or that your presence makes no difference. The second is knowledge. For too many of us, participating in Jewish life is like someone who knows nothing about football watching a football game. The more we know about Jewish life, the more we are part of it. The third is generosity. Our country could not have explored space without government support. Could the Jewish community thrive without our support? As we are about to celebrate the giving of the Torah, I hope that all systems are go.
Happy Shavuot! I hope to see you in Shul.
Rabbi Gerald Sussman