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Counting and Recounting

"Even if we are all wise, understanding and knowledgeable, we are still obliged to recount the Exodus from Egypt." (From the Passover Haggadah)

"And you shall count for yourselves … seven complete weeks." (Leviticus 23:15)

Two Passover mitzvoth that seem unrelated turn out to share a common core. One mitzvah obliges us to recount the story of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt. The other obliges us to count seven complete weeks from Passover to Pentecost. A connection between counting and recounting exists not only in English. Consider, for example, the connection between compter and raconter in French, and the term raconteur, which means storyteller in both languages. In Hebrew, the connection is even more obvious; the verbs סָפַר and סִפֵּר are different conjugations of the same root. Indeed, the particular grammatical structure of these variants suggests that the Hebrew language treats storytelling as an intensified form of counting, or, if you will, the act of making something count. Like counting, storytelling involves placing things in sequence. Unlike counting, however, storytelling injects the sequence with meaning; it is this that makes a story more than just one damn thing after another. Stories don't just report what happened; they invite us to feel something about what happened. (For more on the connection between counting, stories and feelings, see the clip below) May this Passover be an opportunity to inject renewed meaning into the stories we tell about who we are, whence we came, and where we are going.

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