Counting gives us something to do. It gives us a way to concretely mark milestones as we drift through the passage of time, gives us an active way of making progress. It guides us through the year as we count down the number of days in the month, the transition from beginning to end, the transition from holiday to holiday, the number of days until Shabbat, the number of hours until we thoughtfully break fast after Yom Kippur, slowly, inexorably marching through the year until we start afresh again.
Now we count the last days of the year, before we count the Days of Awe, the period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but before we do that, we count the days of Elul, to prepare ourselves for those ten days, and then when it is over, we will continue counting, with renewed and different purpose until we find ourselves here again.
In a world that often feels rushed, harried, topsy-turvy, the steady rhythm of counting the days, the moments, the minutes and hours gives structure, gives meaning, to our existence. There’s something really beautiful about that.