The walls in Dana’s office were bright white and empty, except for the giant poster sitting behind her desk. The words, emblazoned in thick black ink read, simply “Be what you want to be.”
A day earlier, Oded had returned from yet another walk around the park, the third of that afternoon alone. It was the only way he knew to calm his nerves while he waited for the phone to ring, still hoping the last of the interviews he had been invited to would yield his first job since graduating. When the phone finally rang it was not good news. “They said they would keep my resume on file,” he told his mother, looking down feeling the burden of another knock back. It was the fifth rejection in a matter of two months.
“Do you think it’s worth seeing a coach,” his mother asked gently. “It could be, they might have some good advice?” Without any good reason why not, Oded had agreed to an initial meeting.
“That’s the key,” Dana said, pointing to the words jumping out from the wall, that seemed, somehow to fill the room. “So tell me,” she fired at him, “What is it you want to be?”
Slightly taken aback, at her directness, he stammered, “A sports writer.” Looking straight at him, as if searching his soul, she shot back her reply, “How much?” Oded shuffled in his seat preparing his answer.
“This is the first step,” she continued, “Building up your desire for the things that you want. Every day you need to tell yourself over and over again, how much you want this, why you want this, what it means to you and what you will do with it.” She continued, “You need to do this so much that becomes alive in you,” Oded listened intently, “The Second step, is about becoming that which you desire so strongly to be, but that,” she added, “will come later.”
Over the course of the following two weeks, Oded spent five minutes each day talking to himself aloud, awakening and strengthening his desire to find his perfect job. Soon his face began to shine with the glow of a person living with a purpose so real he could almost taste. As he continued to visualise what it would be like to be working in his dream job, he began to feel like he was already a successful sports writer, it felt it was getting closer.
As his next coaching session approached Oded called Dana, happy to relate that he wouldn’t need to attend after all. He had just received an offer from the leading sports news service in Boston.
These few weeks in the Jewish year are weeks of ‘desire and the ‘will to make change’’ or in Hebrew ‘ratzon.’ This is encompassed in the mitzvah of the Counting of the Omer, which began on the second day of Pesach and continues through Shavuout.
The daily count up is meant to instill into our deepest essence, an empassioned desire for the gift of the Torah that awaits us – and was given on Shavuot at Mount Sinai. The more we want it, the more likely we are to acquire our portion in it. We learn here, profoundly that the yearning for something, is a prerequisite for receiving it.
Perhaps we can say, when bracha comes into the world, we have to have open hands and be ready to receive it.
The Maggid of Koznitz, one of the great Hasidic leaders of Poland from the 18th century explained that the words given in the Torah ‘Usphartem lechem’ – count for yourselves – can also be read, -’and explain to yourselves,’ with the word ‘lispor’ – to count, spelt with same letters as the word l’saper meaning to explain. and closely connected to ‘sapir’ meaning a sapphire. Here’s his message:
The more you explain something, the brighter the idea becomes until it shines like a sapphire.
The Maggid of Koznitz explains that this is the key to reaching any kind of goal – is to increase your will and desire for it, by ‘telling it to yourself’, again and again and again. To make it so real that it actually starts to shine bright in you. Once this desire for something has such energy, he adds, it is only a matter of time before the goal you are dreaming of, like a magnet, is drawn to you and starts to take shape.
During this process of increasing our ‘ratzon’- our will, we have to get over a number of obstacles. These can be doubts of our own ability or inability, self worth and challenging the things we have subconsciously already placed into the realm of the impossible. In the words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav ‘A person is where they are thinking about being,’ when that light is strong, its starts to guide the way.
This also explains why the Torah commands that we count 50 days, whereas in reality we only actually count 49. The 50th day, our rabbis explain is finished up for us by some divine assistance – which teaches us we can reach our goals when we put in our maximum effort and truly desire something that is for the sake of heaven. Then these efforts will be blessed and the shortfall made up.
As we count up toward the Omer, we all have an opportunity to increase the desire within ourselves for the things that we want, or want to become. It all starts with ‘telling ourselves’ repeatedly until it starts to feel real, and before we know, with help from shamayim, Bezrat Hashem we are already halfway there.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom.