According to Jewish tradition, the upcoming festival of Shavuot (literally "Weeks") is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Oddly though, we find no clear link in the Bible between the Shavuot festival and the giving of the Torah. Unlike Sukkot, which the Bible describes as the remembrance of the 40 years in the Wilderness, and unlike Passover, described as the exodus from Egypt, there is no apparent historic meaning to Shavuot. Shavuot is actually described as the festival of the seven weeks of field harvest, and the Torah asks us to count seven weeks from the first barley, the first day after Passover, to the first wheat when Shavuot occurs. So how did Shavuot become the festival of the giving of the Torah?
The Kabbalah describes these seven weeks of harvest as seven weeks of self-refinement: transitioning from being slaves fleeing Egypt to becoming free men deserving to receive the Ten Commandments directly from G-d. How does this period of counting seven weeks, the equivalent of 49 days, help us to become better human beings and to truly transform ourselves?
Every week, for seven weeks, we are asked to refine one of our seven basic emotions: Love, Respect, Mercy, Trust, Sincerity, Truth and Humility. Every day of the week, we correct one aspect of the corresponding emotion. For example during the first week, the week of Love, the first day corresponds to Love within Love. That day we meditate how to love without boundaries and without restrictions, the way we love and give to a newborn. The second day is the day of Respect within Love: we meditate on how to love and give while maintaining respect for the recipient of our love without overwhelming our loved one; for example, a teenage child. This rectification of the basic emotions, using our mind and awareness, until we get to the seventh day of the seventh week which is the day of Humility within Humility, empowers us to reflect on our relationships with others and to refine our personality.
This mental process enables us to receive the Torah as we have achieved the 49 gates of knowledge, which correspond to the counting of every day during the seven weeks. Why do we not count the 50th day as it says, "You shall count 50 days," a requirement which seems to conflict with the counting of seven weeks?
The Torah wants to teach us here that the summit of knowledge and self-refinement is actually to know that we can't know. The 50th gate of knowledge, the knowledge of G-d's essence, remains sealed to human beings. So G-d actually counts for us the 50th day to complete our 49 days of counting.
In a world that is changing so rapidly, where new knowledge is created and made available on the Internet every second, the true purpose of knowledge is to know that we can't know and that our knowledge remains limited. We will never fully comprehend this complex reality. Every human theory or business plan which tries to forecast how markets will react to our new products is by definition limited. Nevertheless, we still need to learn and climb the 49 gates of knowledge to actually fully understand the limitation of our knowledge. This knowledge of our own limitation is actually the key to business success. Only when we reach this level of awareness, we are able to better listen to co-workers, to customers, to the world around us. We refine our original plan and remain attentive to the changing reality.
That's actually the exact message of the giving of the Torah making Shavuot the right time to remember that monumental moment. God believes in Humanity and gives us an infinite Torah which He used as the blueprint of world creation. Like the changing world, the Torah remains infinite and it has been given to human beings despite or actually because of our limitations and it is up to us to learn from it, to grow with it, to refine our seven basic emotions to better listen to others and to reality, while we remember that the summit of knowledge is to know that we don't know.
For more on the Counting of the Omer, join the HuffPost Religion virtual community by visiting the liveblog, which features inspiration and teachings for all 49 days of spiritual renewal between Passover and Shavuot.