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The Halachot of Sefirat HaOmer (March 20)

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Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman

The Halachot of Sefirat HaOmer (March 20)

Tuesday 1:00PM
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Course Description

In this class we will discuss the practical halachot of the Sefirat HaOmer. In the 7 weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, we could the Omer. What exactly is the mitzva? We will also talk about the customs associated with the period of mourning which falls during this time.


About Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman
Rabbi Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. Since 1989 he has been studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.

Class Resources & Information

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March 20, 2018 1:00PM - 2:00PM
The Halachot of Sefirat HaOmer (March 20)

Hello Everyone,

   Today we discussed several halachot pertaining to Sefirat haOmer.

    The mitzvah of Sefirat haOmer is in פרשת אמור and is linked, as its name suggests, to the sacrifice of the Omer whixch was brought from the newly harvested barley crop.

   ויקרא פרק כג

(ט) וַיְדַבֵּר ה' אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:

(י) דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וּקְצַרְתֶּם אֶת קְצִירָהּ וַהֲבֵאתֶם אֶת עֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם אֶל הַכֹּהֵן:

(יא) וְהֵנִיף אֶת הָעֹמֶר לִפְנֵי ה' לִרְצֹנְכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת יְנִיפֶנּוּ הַכֹּהֵן:

(יב) וַעֲשִׂיתֶם בְּיוֹם הֲנִיפְכֶם אֶת הָעֹמֶר כֶּבֶשׂ תָּמִים בֶּן שְׁנָתוֹ לְעֹלָה לַה':

(יג) וּמִנְחָתוֹ שְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים סֹלֶת בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן אִשֶּׁה לַה' רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ וְנִסְכֹּה יַיִן רְבִיעִת הַהִין:

(יד) וְלֶחֶם וְקָלִי וְכַרְמֶל לֹא תֹאכְלוּ עַד עֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַד הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת קָרְבַּן אֱלֹהֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם: ס

(טו) וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה:

(טז) עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה לַה':

   Since the Torah links the mitzvah to count the Omer to the sacrifice of the Omer it is only natural to wonder if there is a mitzvah to count the Omer when there is no longer an Omer sacrifice. The Gemarah’s discussion of the mitzvah to count the Omer ends with this statement:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת מנחות דף סו עמוד א

אמימר מני יומי ולא מני שבועי אמר זכר למקדש הוא

Ameimar held that the mitzvah in our time is (sadly) only a commemoration of what was a מצוה דאורייתא when we had the Temple. The question is whether the Halacha follows the view of Ameimar. The Rambam did not accept the position of Ameimar:

רמב"ם הלכות תמידין ומוספין פרק ז

הלכה כב

מצות עשה לספור שבע שבתות תמימות מיום הבאת העומר שנאמר וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת שבע שבתות, ומצוה למנות הימים עם השבועות שנאמר תספרו חמשים יום, ומתחילת היום מונין לפיכך מונה בלילה מליל ששה עשר בניסן.

הלכה כד

מצוה זו על כל איש מישראל ובכל מקום ובכל זמן, ונשים ועבדים פטורין ממנה.

On the other hand the Tosafot accept the view of Ameimar:

תוספות מסכת מנחות דף סו עמוד א

זכר למקדש הוא - נראה דבספק חשיכה יכול לברך ואין צריך להמתין עד שיהא ודאי לילה כיון שהוא ספיקא דרבנן......

The consensus of the Poskim is that in our time the mitzvah is Rabbinic.

ביאור הלכה סימן תפט סעיף א

* לספור העומר - הנה דעת הרמב"ם והחינוך שהוא נוהג מן התורה גם עתה אכן דעת הטור ושו"ע וכמה פוסקים שאינה בזה"ז אלא זכר למקדש שהקריבו עומר וכן הוא סוגית הפוסקים בסימן זה....

The Torah says that we must count seven weeks and that the count needs to be complete-

... שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה:

Among the Poskim, there are two ideas regarding the mitzvah to count the Omer. According to some Poskim there is a single mitzvah to count forty-nine days. Therefore if a person forgets to count one day there is no purpose in counting the remaining days. Since he missed on day his count is no longer complete; he cannot meet the requirement of ".תמימות"[1] Based on this rule the Mishnah Brurah wrote that women should not count the Omer with the blessing. He felt that it was almost certain that a woman will forget to count one day and therefore the brachot that she said would be in vain.[2]

   Rav Shlomo Kluger zt”l was aksed  a similar question and came to a different conclusion. He was asked about a man who for many years did not succeed to count the Omer completely. The man in question was extremely preoccupied by business issues. Rav Shlomo Kluger said that the person may start his counting with the blessing. He gave two reasons for this ruling.

    First, he said that "תמימות" should not be understood a stipulation for commencing to count. Everyone can begin the count and say the blessing. It is only in a case where  a day was skipped that we say that תמימות no longer exists and therefore the blessing may not be said.

   Rav Shlomo Kluger’s second reason is very interesting. Rav Shlomo Kluger quotes a Gemarah in masechet Berachot that if a person is prevented from fulfilling a mitzvah because of an unavoidable force (אונס) the person is credited as if the mitzvah was fulfilled. Rav Shlomo Kluger felt that the person in question has every intention of fulfilling the mitzvah. His forgetfulness is certainly not deliberate and undesired by him. Therefore if he should forget to count a day it would be אונס and judged by Hashem as if he counted.

   Rav Shlomo Kluger acknowledged that his interpretation is novel. Many Poskim say that forgetting is an act of negligence and is not .אונס The Shulchan Aruch does not distinguish between cases of forgetting:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות פסח סימן תפט סעיף ח

 אם שכח לברך באחד מהימים, בין יום ראשון בין משאר ימים, סופר בשאר ימים  בלא ברכה;

   If a person forgets a day Rav Shlomo Kluger did not wish to rule against the Shulchan Aruch. However, since the person in question is only starting to count he may count with a blessing despite the high level of probability that he will miss a day.

   The next subject which came up was whether an אונן may count the Omer. An Onen is a person whose relative died but has not yet been buried. The Halacha exempts an Onen from fulfilling positive mitzvoth. The principle behind this rule is the idea העוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוות. When a person is occupied with a mitzvah he is exempt from other mitzvoth.[3]

As a rule the Halacha is that an Onen is not merely exempt from mitzvoth; he may not perform mitzvoth:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות קריאת שמע סימן עא

סעיף א

 מי שמת לו מת שהוא חייב להתאבל עליו, אפילו אינו מוטל עליו לקברו, פטור מק"ש ומתפלה. ואפילו אם רוצה להחמיר על עצמו ולקרות, אינו רשאי. ואם יש לו מי שישתדל בשבילו בצרכי קבורה, ורצה להחמיר על עצמו ולקרות, אין מוחין בידו ( עיין בי"ד סי' שמ"א).

משנה ברורה על שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות קריאת שמע סימן עא סעיף א

(ז) סימן שמ"א - דשם פסק דאינו רשאי להחמיר בכל גווני וכן עיקר [אחרונים] ומ"מ בן שהוא אונן על אביו ויש מתעסקין בלעדו מותר לו לילך לבהכ"נ לומר קדיש עליו כי זהו כבודו של אביו ומותר לכו"ע ומכ"ש בשבת ויו"ט ודוקא כשאין אבלים אחרים אבל כשיש אבלים אחרים לא [פמ"ג ודה"ח]:

  When the question comes to Sefirat haOmer it is not merely a question of exemption from the mitzvah. We can understand that the Onen is exempt, for example from saying the Shma  for one day. But if the Onen misses a day from the counting of the Omer he will not be able to say the blessing on all the days to come.

   The Mishnah Brurah  addresses this issue in the ביאור הלכה, סימן תפט, סעיף ח, ד"ה בלא ברכה. He quotes the נודע ביהודה who ruled that the Onen should count that day without the blessing and then continue with the bracha.

   This question of Onen is related to the question of a child who becomes a bar-mitzvah (or bat-mitzvah if she is  Ashkenazic) during the Omer period. Do the days that the child counted before Halachic adulthood combine with the post-bar/bat mitzvah days for ?תמימות Or do we say that the count that was done prior to adulthood were done when the child was not obligated to perform the mitzvah and therefore not significant. Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l  ruled that the child may not count with the bracha after becoming an adult  but Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l  ruled that the child may count with the bracha.

   Finally we discussed listening to music during the Omer period.The Omer period is one of mourning for the students of Rabbi Akiva who died during that time. The Magen Avraham wrote that during this period we may not participate in dancing and music:

מגן אברהם סימן תצג

אבל לעשות ריקודין ומחולות של רשות נהגו לאסור ונ"ל שאף מי שעשה שדוכים אסור לעשות ריקודין ומחולות:

Rav Shlomo Daichovsky shlita”h wrote in the journal “Techumin” that this prohibition does not apply to the background music which is so pervasive in our work-lives. People are so used to music that to refrain from music will cause many people to suffer from stress.

This is a summary of the shiur. Thanks to everyone who participated and waited for my Internet connection to come back.

Chag kasher v’sameiach

Stuart Fischman





[1] There is another view which holds that each day is its own mitzvah. Therefore the accepted Halacha is that if a person forgets to count one day he should continue to count but without saying the blessing.

[2] I think I should point out that the Mishnah Brurah wrote this when it was uncommon for women to say the Evening Prayer in the synagogue where people count the Omer. In our time when there are so many electronic devices that remind us to count the Omer it would seem that Ashkenazi women may count the Omer with a bracha. The question is different for Sephardic women because the Sephardic Poskim held as a rule that women should not say blessings when fulfilling מצוות עשה שהזמן גרמא .

[3] The laws of Onen are very much determined by the circumstances. In any case of Onen a Rabbi should be consulted on how to procede.


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