Last week we began the period of the year known as Sefirat Ha-Omer, the counting of the omer. Between Pesach and Shavuot, we count fifty days to trace our journey from slavery to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. This chasidic story is about counting time. What can we learn from it in an age when the exact time is displayed everywhere, not only on watches and clocks but on phones and music players and computer screens?
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When the Seer of Lublin died, he left very few possessions to his children. One item was a clock. His son took it, and once on a journey when he could not pay for his lodging, he gave the clock to the innkeeper.
Some years later, a young rabbi was staying at that same inn. He arrived late and the inn was full. But the owner had compassion and allowed him to spend the night in the master bedroom.
All night long, the innkeeper heard dancing from the room where the tired rabbi was staying.
In the morning, the innkeeper asked the rabbi what he had been doing all night. "It was the clock!" exclaimed the rabbi. "When I heard the ticking, I know It belonged to my teacher, the Seer of Lublin! All other clocks, when people hear them ticking and tocking, they are simply counting down the moments to death. But the clock of the Holy Seer was different. He used it to count down the time to the next mitzvah. 'When can I say the morning Sh'ma?' And he used it count how much closer he was coming to his goal of serving God with all his heart."