In Judaism, we tend to “count up” rather than “count down.” Consider Chanukkah candles: rather than starting with eight candles and counting down to one (which would parallel the decreasing amount of oil in the well-known Chanukkah story), we add one candle each night and count up. The days between Pesauch and Shavu’ot are also days of counting. Known as sefirat haomer (“counting of the Omer”), we count up 49 days. Even on a weekly basis we “count up:” Sunday in Hebrew is Yom Rishon (first day), Monday, Yom Sheni (second day), etc.

The Jewish tendency to count forward captures our optimistic outlook on life. Yes, we are a people who cherishes the past- our history. But we also know how to look ahead, to imagine days to come. This is true on a communal level as well as for individuals. Traditionally, Judaism has had few formal rituals to mark birthdays or anniversaries. But the principle of “counting up” gives us food for thought when considering these lifecycle events.

We say on a birthday, “Ad meah v’esrim, You should live to 120.” And in the words of the misheberach for anniversaries (anniversary blessing), we pray that a couple continues to enjoy their love together “in the new song of your years to come.”

Birthdays and anniversaries are opportunities to celebrate with family- not simply to celebrate what was but to look forward to the future. And just as birth ceremonies and weddings are communal celebrations, we invite you to celebrate your special occasion with us. Every five years, couples are invited to our Friday night Shabbat services to celebrate their anniversaries with a blessing, songs and a special gift (for 50th & 60th anniversaries). In addition, some couples choose to mark their special occasion by having an aliyah to the Torah during which an appropriate blessing is recited. To schedule an aliyah, contact Jill Blustin at 800.854.3771 . To find out about sponsoring a kiddush luncheon in honor of these or other types of s’machot, contact Junior W Oliver at or 800.854.3771.