Sefirat HaOmer

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There is a Torah obligation to count the days of the Omer stated in the Pasuk [1] as follows: וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עמר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה: עד ממחרת השבת השביעת תספרו חמשים יום והקרבתם מנחה חדשה ליהוה:. . The Mitzvah is to count 49 days (counting the days and the weeks) from the second day of Pesach (when the Korban HaOmer was brought) until Shavuot. The mitzvah applies nowadays. [2]

If someone asks the day of the Omer

  1. If someone asks "What day of the Omer is it?" if one hasn't fulfilled one's obligation yet, one should answer that "yesterday was such and such" rather than answering "today is such and such in the Omer" because if one were to do so, then one would fulfill one's obligation without having made the Bracha (and wouldn't be allowed to then say the Bracha). [3]

Timing

  1. If it's before Shekiah then one may answer the day in the Omer in a straightforward manner and still say that night's Omer with a Bracha. [4]

Days without weeks

  1. If a person asks the day of the Omer and one answered by saying the number of the Omer without saying the number of weeks many authoriites hold that one hasn't fulfilled one's obligation and one should repeat the coutning with a Bracha [5], while others argue that one should repeat the counting without a Bracha [6], and some make a compromise to obligate one in repeating the counting with a Bracha on days when a week is completed. [7]

Abbreviation

  1. Some say that if a person answered the number in abbreviation (such as Lag for 33 or Dalet for 4) one has not fulfilled one’s obligation and one should repeat counting the Sefirah with a Bracha. [8] while others hold that one fulfills one's obligation with an abbreviation and one should not repeat the Omer with a Bracha. [9]
  2. If a person made the Bracha and then said the number in abbreviation one shouldn’t repeat the counting with a Bracha (since he clearly intended to fulfill his obligation and there is some significance to an abbreviation.)[10]

Forty minus one

  1. If one makes the Bracha and counts by saying the next number of the Omer minus one such as saying that today is forty minus one instead of saying thirty nine one has fulfilled one's obligation. [11]
  2. If a person asks the day of the Omer and one answered by saying the next number of the Omer minus one such as saying that today is forty minus one instead of saying thirty nine, some say that one fulfilled one's obligation, while others disagree and hold that one should repeat the counting with a Bracha. [12]
  3. If a person asks the day of the Omer and one answered by saying that tomorrow the Omer is such and such (and it's implied that today's Omer is one less) nonetheless one has not fulfilled one's obligation and one must repeat counting the Omer with a Bracha. [13]

Position

  1. One should say the Sefirat HaOmer standing. [14]

Timing

  1. One may not count Sefirat HaOmer until Shekiyah (during Ben HaShemashot) and even then it’s preferable not to count until Tzet HaCochavim. [15]
  2. If one counted during the day (before Plag Mincha) one has not fulfilled one’s obligation even if one Davened Mariv early and one must count it again that night with a Bracha. [16]
  3. If one said Mariv before Shekiyah after Plag Mincha one shouldn’t count then but rather wait until at least Ben HaShemashot, However if one did so then one should count again at night without a Bracha unless one didn’t daven mariv before Shekiyah in which case one should count again with a Bracha. [17]
  4. If someone is insistent on saying Kriyat Shema at night after Tzet HaCochavim of רבינו תם one should also wait until Tzet HaCochavim in order to count Sefirat HaOmer. [18]
  5. One shouldn’t rely on the minhag to count after Plag Mincha. [19]
  6. If one is Davening in a minyan which is davening early and finishes during Ben HaShemashot (Between Shekiah and Tzet HaCochavim) those who are careful about counting after Tzet HaCochavim should count with the minyan without a bracha and stipulate mentally "if I don't remember to count with a bracha then this counting should fulfill my obligation, however, if I remember later then I have intent not to fulfill my obligation with this counting" and then after Tzet HaCochavim count the Omer with a Bracha. [20]
  7. One should say the Sefirah in the beginning of the night, if one forgot one can say the Sefirah with a Bracha the entire next night. [21]
  8. If one forgot to count the Omer an entire night and day one should continue to count without a Bracha. [22]
  9. If one is unsure whether one missed an entire day one should continue to count with a Bracha. [23]

Eating before counting the Omer

  1. It is forbidden to eat within a half hour of Tzet HaCochavim until one counts the Omer. [24]

Who is obligated to count?

  1. Women are exempt from counting since it’s a Mitzvah Aseh SheZman Grama. [25]

A child who became Bar Mitzvahed during Sefirah

  1. A child who became Bar Mitzvahed during Sefirah should continue counting without a bracha. [26]

Language of the Sefirah

  1. Lechatchila, one should know the number of the day when you make the bracha. Bedieved, if one said the bracha with intent to hear the number of the day from his friend and paused to hear his friend after his bracha, he’s Yotsei. [27]
  2. Lechatchila, one should count today is such and such “to the Omer”, Bedieved if one just said today is such and such day you’re yotzei. [28]

Incorrect intent during Bracha

  1. Preferably, one should know the day of the Omer while making the Bracha, however, if one didn't know the day of the Omer but made the Bracha with intent to complete it as one will hear from one's friend and one did do so one has fulfilled one's obligation. [29]
  2. If one started the bracha (Baruch Atta…Melech HaOlam) with in mind to say the wrong night and then finished the bracha with the intent to say the correct night and then said the correct Hayom, one is Yotzei. [30]
  3. If one started the bracha (Baruch Atta…Melech HaOlam) with in mind to say the correct night and then finished the bracha with the intent to say the wrong night and then said the wrong Hayom, according to Sephardim, one is Yotzei, while Ashkenazim hold that if one corrects the Hayom within Toch Kedi Dibbur one is Yotsei but otherwise one isn’t Yotzei and needs a new bracha. [31]

Prohibited practices during the Sefirat HaOmer

The practice is to observe certain practices of mourning during the Sefirah because the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died during this time (Yevamot 62b).

Getting Married

  1. The Sephardic custom is not to get married during the Sefira until the 34th day in the morning. [32]
  2. The Ashkenazic custom is not to get married during the Sefira until the 33rd day (Lag BaOmer). [33]
  3. If the marriage involves a couple with one side who is Ashkenazic and one side Sephardic, the custom of the husband should be followed. [34]

Getting engaged

  1. It's permissible to get engaged during the Sefirah, however one may not have music and one shouldn't dance much. [35]

Cutting hair

  1. The Sephardic custom is not to cut one's hair during the Sefira until the 34th day in the morning. [36]
  2. The Sephardic custom on a year that Lag BaOmer falls out on Friday is that one may cut one's hair on Friday morning out of respect for Shabbat and if one is unable to cut one's hair on Friday morning, it's permissible to cut one's hair on Thursday night after Tzet HaCochavim. [37]
  3. If one has a Brit Milah during the Sefira, the father of the baby, the Mohel, and the Tzandak may cut their hair that day. [38]

Shaving

  1. It's proper to keep the minhag of not shaving until the 34th day in the morning, however, someone who is bothered greatly by not shaving some say that he may shave on Rosh Chodesh Iyar and some say on Friday. [39] Some authorities permitted someone who shaves daily after having waited 3 or 5 days of not shaving to shave during the Sefira. [40]

Cutting nails

  1. It is permissible to cut one's nail during the Sefirat HaOmer. [41]

Making Shechiyanu

  1. It is preferable not to wear new clothing which would require one to make a Shechiyanu during the Sefira, however, if there's a need one should do it on a Shabbat, at a Simcha of a Bar Mitzvah or Brit Milah. [42] The accepted Sephardic minhag is to make Shechiyanu as usual. [43]
  2. It is permissible to eat a new fruit which would require one to make a Shechiyanu during the Sefira. [44]
  3. It is permissible to move into a new apartment and make the requisite Shechiyanu during the Sefira. [45]

Listening to music

  1. It is forbidden to listen to music during the Sefira even if it's not live music, and this practice should be kept until at least the 34th of the Omer. [46]

Customs of mourning during the Sefira

  1. There’s three basic minhagim about the mourning period between Pesach and Shavuot.

The first minhag

  1. One practice is to mourn the first 33 days from the beginning of the Omer until the 34th day in the morning. This practice is followed by Sephardim. [47]

The second minhag

  1. A second practice is to mourn from the beginning of the Omer until the 33rd day in the morning. This practice is followed by most Ashkenazim. [48]

The third minhag

  1. A third practice is to mourn 33 not consecutive days during the Omer. [49]
    1. Some observe this practice by mourning from the day after Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Erev Shavuot excluding Lag BaOmer. [50]
    2. Some observe this practice by mourning from the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the third day before Shavuot. [51]
    3. Some observe this practice by mourning from after Issru Chag until Rosh Chodesh Sivan excluding the two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar and Lag BaOmer. [52]
    4. Some observe this practice by mourning all the days of the Omer expect for Rosh Chodesh Iyar and Sivan. [53]
    5. This practice is followed by some Ashkenazim. [54]

References

  1. (Vayikra 23:15-16)
  2. Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvah Mitzvot Aseh #161) counts this as one mitzvah to count days and weeks and not as two separate mitzvot. See Tosfot Menachot 65b D"H Ketuv who asks why we only count 49 days when the Pasuk says to count 50 days and answers that the pasuk doesn't mean from the Korban Omer until the day after HaShabbat HaShevit count 50 days but rather means to from the Korban Omer until the day after Hashabbat HaShevit which is the 50th day one should count (up to but not including). Alternatively Tosfot answers that the command to count to the number 50 in the pasuk refers to when the Korban Shtei HaLechem is brought and not the count of the Omer.
  3. S"A 489:4
  4. S"A 489:4
  5. Sh"t Maharash HaLevi Siman 5 (see it inside) argues at length that the mitzvah includes an element of counting the days and an element of counting weeks and if one lacks either one the obligation wasn't fulfilled and one should repeat it with a Bracha. The Mishna Brurah 489:22 (and Shaar HaTzion 489:28) hold like the Eliyah Rabba who also holds that if one didn't count the weeks one must repeat the counting with a Bracha.
  6. Knesset HaGedolah on Bet Yosef 489 D"H VaAni
  7. Shaar HaTzion 489:28 in name of the Pri Chadash
  8. Sh"t Maharash HaLevi Siman 5
  9. Knesset HaGedolah on Bet Yosef 489 D"H VaAni
  10. Sh"t Maharash HaLevi Siman 5
  11. The Pri HaAretz Siman 10 quotes the Mahari Malcho who says that if on the 39th day one said that tonight is 40 minus 1 one fulfilled one’s obligation. This is also quoted by the Kemach Solet pg 118b D”H Mi SheShachach, Bear Hetiev 489:8, Yad Aharon (on the Tur Siman 489 D”H Im Amar).
  12. Sh"t Pri HaAretz Siman 10 (at the end in parentheses), Kemach Solet pg 118b D”H Im Shoalo Chavero
  13. Sh"t Vayan Avraham Siman 35 and Chazon Ovadyah (Yom Tov pg 247) based on the distinction of the Sh"t Pri HaAretz Siman 10 (at the end in parentheses)
  14. S”A 489:1 based on the Rosh (Pesachim 10:41e) and Rambam (Temidin UMusafin 7:23) write that Sefirat HaOmer should be said standing. So rules S”A 489:1 that you need to stand. Rambam adds that, if one did say it while seated you’re also yotseh. So rules Mishna Brurah 489:6. Mishna Brurah adds that you should stand also for the Bracha.
  15. Tosfot (Menachot 66a), Rosh (Pesachim 10:40), Tur 489:1, and Ran (Pesachim 28a D”H VeBeHaggadah in name of most Mefarshim) rule that since Sefirah is Derabbanan one can count even during Ben HaShemashot. However, Rambam (Temidin UMusafin 7:22) who holds that Sefira is Deoritta, also holds that Sefirah must be said after nightfall. S”A 489:2 rules One may not count Sefirat HaOmer until Shekiyah (during Ben HaShemashot) and even then it’s preferable not to count until Tzet HaCochavim. Mishna Brurah 489:15 writes that Bedieved one fulfills one’s obligation if one counted during Ben HaShemashot and then quotes the Eliyah Rabba 489:10 who says that preferably one should count again after Tzet HaCochavim without a Bracha (because of the RIshonim who hold that Sefirah is Deoritta nowadays).
  16. S”A 489:2, Mishna Brurah 489:13, Biur Halacha 489:3 D”H MeBeOd Yom
  17. Hilchot Chag BaChag (pg 26), implied from Shaar HaTzion 489:17
  18. Piskei Shemuot (Shavuot pg 40-1) in name of Rav Nassim Karlitz
  19. Rav Elyashiv in Kovetz Teshuvot (vol 3, end of chapter 4) quoted by Piskei Shemuot (Shavuot pg 42)
  20. S"A 489:3 states that if davens early with a minyan one should count without a Bracha and if one remembers later with a minyan one should count with a Bracha. Mishnah Brurah 489:17 and Chazon Ovadyah (Yom Tov pg 233-4 explain that the minyan finishes during Ben HaShemashot and one must stipulate that if one remembers to count later that one will not fulfill one's obligation with the counting together with the Minyan.
  21. Tur 489:1 writes that if one forgot to count at the beginning of the night one can count all night. Perisha 489:1 quotes the Ran (Pesachim 28a D”H VeBeHaggadah Gam Ken) who agrees. So rules S”A 489:7.
  22. S"A 489:8
  23. S"A 489:8
  24. Rama 489:4, Mishna Brurah 489:23
  25. Rambam (Temidin UMusafin 7:24) rules that women are exempt from counting Sefirah. (Rambam is also found in the Sefer Hamitzvot #161). This is brought in Bet Yosef 489:1 D”H VeTzarich. So rules Magan Avraham 489:1 (who also quotes Zohar Titzaveh pg 319 to show women are exempt) and Mishna Brurah 489:3. [Interestingly, Ramban (Kedushin 34a) holds women are obligated and the Shitat HaKadmonim (last page of Bava Kama) brings the son the Maharam Challavah who explains that Sefirah isn’t Zman Grama since the time doesn’t cause Sefirah, but the Korban HaOmer.]
  26. Sh"t Yabea Omer 3:27-28
  27. S”A 489:5 writes that if one said the bracha with in mind that one will say the Hayom that his friend says, he fulfills his obligation. Yet, Taz 489:8 writes that implied from S”A is that Lechatchila one should say the bracha only when you know the number of the day. Mishna Brurah 489:29 adds that Lechatchila it’s forbidden to pause for more than Toch Kedi Dibbur.
  28. Sh”t Rashba 1:457 brought in Bet Yosef 489 D”H Katav rules that really to fulfill the mitzvah it deosn’t matter whether you mention the Omer or not, however, it’s preferable to mention the Omer to clarify. So rules the Mishna Brurah 489:8.
  29. Mishna Brurah 489:29, S"A 489:5
  30. Tur 489:6 quotes the Avi Ezri that writes that a person who had in mind the wrong number during the beginning of the bracha and during the end of the bracha he thought of the correct number and said the HaYom correctly, isn’t Yotzei as he needs the beginning and end of the bracha to be with the correct intention. Bet Yosef 489:6 quotes the Mordechai that this Avi Ezri is going according to the opinion that Sefira is Deoritta and therefore since it’s a Safek whether such a Bracha is sufficient (as in Brachot 12a) he must make a new bracha. However, Bet Yosef concludes since majority of RIshonim hold Sefira is Derabbanan, we are lenient on this safek and is Yotzei. So rules the S”A 489:6 and all achronim agree including Mishna Brurah 489:32.
  31. (1) Tur 489:6 quotes the Avi Ezri that writes that a person who had in mind the correct number during the beginning of the bracha and during the end of the bracha he thought of the wrong number and said the wrong HaYom, isn’t Yotzei as he needs the beginning and end of the bracha to be with the correct intention. (2) Bet Yosef 489:6 quotes the Mordechai that this Avi Ezri is going according to the opinion that Sefira is Deoritta and therefore since it’s a Safek whether such a Bracha is sufficient (as in Brachot 12a) he must make a new bracha. However, Bet Yosef concludes since majority of Rishonim hold Sefira is Derabbanan, we are lenient on this safek and is Yotzei. So rules the S”A 489:6 and some achronim agree including Magan Avraham 489:12, Olot Shabbat 489:6, Chok Yakov 489:19, and Kaf HaChaim 489:75. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim edition 5764 pg 615) writes that one should count again to fulfill the obligation according to everyone however one shouldn’t make a Bracha like S”A. (3) However, Bach (489 D”H UMah SheKatav Katav Od Avi Ezri) argues on the Bet Yosef and says that according to everyone one isn’t Yotzei in such a case as the counting was simply wrong. So rules the Levush, Pri Chadash and Mishna Brurah 489:32. (4) The third approach is that of the Maamer Mordechai 489:8 and Chok Yosef who explains S”A as where one corrected himself within Toch Kedi Dibbur. (5) Another explanation of S”A is that of the Taz 489:9 (to defend S”A against his father-in-law the Bach) who explains that the S”A was only dealing with someone who made the bracha with the wrong intent either in the beginning or in the end and then counted the Hayom correctly and so one fulfills his obligation according to the majority of Rishonim that Sefirah is Derabbanan.
  32. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 428)
  33. Rama 493:1
  34. Sh"t Yabea Omer 3:26(4), Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 429)
  35. Maamer Mordechai of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Sefirat HaOmer #45)
  36. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 430), Maamer Mordechai of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Sefirat HaOmer #48)
  37. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 431-2)
  38. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 432)
  39. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 431)
  40. Rav Hershel Schachter (min 107-110)
  41. Maamer Mordechai of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Sefirat HaOmer #54)
  42. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 433)
  43. Maamer Mordechai of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Sefirat HaOmer #55)
  44. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 434)
  45. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 434)
  46. Yalkut Yosef (Moadim pg 434), Maamer Mordechai of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Sefirat HaOmer #40)
  47. The source for this minhag is the Teshuvah of R. Yehoshua Ibn Shuib (quoted by the Bet Yosef in the beginning of 493) which says that the students of Rabbi Akiva died during the Omer except for the last 15 days which leaves the first 34 days, however, based on Miksat HaYom KeKulo (a minority of the day is considered like a whole day) one may stop mourning on the morning of the 34th. This is the ruling of S”A 493:2 and the practice of Sephardim as recorded in Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A 493:1). This is explained clearly in Biur HaGra 493:6 D”H Nohagin, Biur Halacha 493 D”H Yesh Nohagim, and http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/714562/Rabbi_Josh_Flug/The_Mourning_Period_Of_Sefirat_Ha'omer.
  48. The source for this minhag is the Rama 493:2 who holds that the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying on the 33rd day of the Omer and by the principle of Miksat HaYom KeKulo (a minority of the day is considered like a whole day) one may stop mourning on the morning of the 33rd. This is the explanation of the Biur HaGra 493:9 D”H UMarbim, and the practice of Ashkenazim as recorded by Halachically Speaking (Volume 3, Issue 8, page 3). This is explained clearly in Biur Halacha 493 D”H Yesh Nohagim and http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/714562/Rabbi_Josh_Flug/The_Mourning_Period_Of_Sefirat_Ha'omer.
  49. Sh"t Igrot Moshe 1:159 explains the reason for this minhag is that the students died the entire time between Pesach and Shavuot except for 16 non-consecutive days (which have no Tachanun which are 7 days of Pesach, 7 Shabbatot, 2 days of Rosh Chodesh).
  50. Magan Avraham 489:5
  51. Magan Avraham 489:5
  52. Mishna Brurah 489:15 quoting the Siddur Derech Chaim
  53. Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:159 explains that the reason for this minhag is that it holds that the students of Rabbi Akiva died on all the days between Pesach and Shavuot except for the 16 days when one can not say Tachanun (7 days of Pesach, 6 Shabbatot, 3 days of Rosh Chodesh) and so the minhag forbids getting married and cutting hair the entire Sefira except for Rosh Chodesh Iyar and Sivan (and Pesach and Shabbat are already forbidden to get married).
  54. Mishna Brurah 489:5