Dvar Torah: Counting our Days

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 14 December 2018

A couple of years ago, the shoe company Reebok commissioned a survey of how people spent their time.
They called it their “25,915 Days” campaign – that being the number of days in 71 years, which for some reason they decided was the average human lifespan.

The survey “revealed” that the average person – whatever that means – will spend the equivalent of over 10,000 days looking at a technological device, 7,500 days sitting down, nearly 2,000 days socializing – and  only 180 days exercising.

“We felt compelled”, the VP of Brand Management said, (compelled, noch)… “to shine a light on the disparities between what we may aspire to achieve and what we are willing to do about it”.  In case you thought the brand speak couldn’t get any worse, the press release went on to say that this campaign “continues a dialogue…” started in previous campaigns – a dialogue, that is, aimed at encouraging people to buy more trainers.

But, at the heart of this campaign is an interesting idea – that life feels different when we count it in days rather than years – if we focus in more narrowly, it gives us a different perspective on who we are.

This is alluded to in our Torah portion this week.  When Jacob finally makes his way to Egypt, having discovered that his son Joseph is alive, he meets Pharaoh.  And Pharaoh asks him: kamah y’mei sh’mei chayecha – how many are the days of the years of your life.  Not merely how old are you? But How many have your days been – what have they felt like?

In his commentary on this verse, the father of modern Orthodoxy, Samson Raphael Hirsch states that in asking this question, Pharaoh recognises that he is talking to someone very special – someone who thinks in days not years.  “A really true human being” Hirsch wrote, “Does not live in years but days… each day they are strong, each day they accomplish something, make progress… each such day is reckoned up by God and no day is lost.”  Hirsch links this to verse 12 of Psalm 90: “limnot yameinu kein hoda, v’navi l’vav chochmah” – “teach us to count our days that we may achieve a heart of wisdom”.

The turn of the year is one of those periods that we might allow ourselves a moment of reflection on who we are and what we do.  A New Year beckons.  But not just a new year – 365 individual days.  What might we do with them with a heart of wisdom?
How many days for volunteering, for our own spiritual growth, for study?  How many days for our community, for our family?
What good can we do with these days – what can those days bring to our synagogue life, to our community?

The New Year is an opportunity to “shine a light on the disparities between what we may aspire to achieve and what we are willing to do about it”.  As we enter 2019, may we learn to count our days – and perhaps more importantly, may we commit to make our days count.