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 Sfira marks the longest-running commandment of the Torah. It occupies forty nine days on the yearly Jewish calendar. It has been encrusted with customs in commemoration of events in Jewish history, some happy and some not so happy. Although most of Sfira is low-key if not even somber, there are minor festival days that are also included during this period of time. Sfira reflects much of what our ordinary lives experience – a mixture of emotion and occurrences.

The joy of performing this special mitzvah/commandment daily for seven consecutive weeks is a novel inspiration to all who truly think about it. We are bidden by our teacher Moshe, in one of his prayers, as recorded for us in the book of Psalms “to count our days.” Well, Sfira certainly accords us the opportunity to do so in a meaningful and regular fashion. 
As with all commandments, we are bidden not only to be satisfied with the mechanical observance of that commandment, but also, perhaps as importantly, to understand and assimilate the spirit and overall Torah lesson. In so doing, we often find ourselves having to deal with contradictory values and different situations. 
Then the question arises as to what value or form of behavior we will adopt regarding our behavior. This issue is certainly not limited to the time of Sfira but since Sfira lasts for such a long time, there will undoubtedly be numerous occasions when this type of dilemma is upon us. The period of Sfira becomes a testing time for us in terms of our appreciation of Torah and the complexity of its Godly value system.
 I was once being driven in an automobile/car service with a friend of mine and we had the honor of also having a great noted rabbi accompanying us. The non-Jewish driver of the automobile turned on the radio softly and was listening to classical music while driving. Since this was during the Sfira period, and since there are many pious Jews who refrain from listening to any form of music, even if it be on the radio, we were disturbed. 
The prohibition against listening to music during the period of Sfira is one of the customs that has become common amongst large sections of the Jewish society. My companion and I were well aware that the great rabbi sitting with us would not have music emanating from the radio in his house during Sfira, so we volunteered to tell the driver to please turn off the radio as it was disturbing to us. The great rabbi forbade us from so doing.  
He said as follows: “This driver is stuck in this car driving around the New York area in terrible traffic all day. It is his livelihood and he has to do so. In order to relieve his boredom, soothe his nerves and enable him to pass the time in a manner that is less taxing, he listens to the radio and classical music. The Torah would not wish me to deprive him of that necessary pleasure for his well-being because of a stringency of custom that I would ordinarily follow. Please leave him alone and do not say anything.” I immediately thought to myself that I had just witnessed the thought process of a truly pious Torah Jew.
One of the ideas of Sfira is that one counts not only days but weeks as well. Though there is much halachic discussion regarding the meaning and reasons for this type of counting during Sfira, this counting of weeks as part of our fulfillment of the commandment of the counting of days has moral consequences attached to it. 
By counting weeks as well as days we give our commandments and their fulfillment, a longer-range outlook. We are expanding our horizons and not merely seeing the day in isolation but rather as part of a process in time that will lead to Divine revelation and Jewish self-realization. Without encasing our days in a process of achievement and accomplishment, of hope and commitment, - which counting weeks entails - we will always fall short of the mark that the Torah has set for us. 
The counting of weeks gives us an important lesson and opens our vision past the daily present. Judaism is meant to be seen with its full backdrop and with all of its nuances. It combines past and future and describes itself as the catalyst of the process of human development and moral civilization. Sfira can and should teach us this great and relevant lesson.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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Rabbi Berel Wein