Summary of laws-Counting the Omer

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The Mitzvah of Sefiras Haomer/Counting the Omer

  1. The Mitzvah:
  • It is a positive command of the Torah for every single Jew to count seven weeks worth of days beginning from when the Omer was offered. [In the times of the Temple the Omer was offered on the 16th of Nissan, the second day of Pesach. The Omer offering consisted of the new harvest of barley and was brought as a Mincha offering.]
  • In the Diaspora: The Mitzvah of counting the Omer Biblically applies in both Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora.
  • During exile is the Mitzvah of Biblical or Rabbinical status? It is disputed as to whether the obligation of counting the Omer during the times of exile, when we no longer have a Temple and no longer bring the Omer offering, is of Biblical requirement or is a Rabbinical injunction. Practically, the main Halachic opinion follows like those who hold that the Mitzvah today is of Rabbinical status.
  • Does one fulfill 49 Mitzvos upon counting for 49 days or is it considered one single Mitzvah? According to all opinions, each day of the count is a separate Mitzvah. This is similar to the Mitzvah of Tefillin, of which each day that one wears Tefillin he fulfills the Mitzvah of Tefillin and so too each day that one counts the Omer he fulfills the Mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer.
  1. Who is obligated in the Mitzvah?
  • Men: All men are obligated in the Mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer.
  • Women:  Women are to count Sefiras Haomer each night, in the beginning of the night, and are to be reminded by their husbands to do so. This applies even if they already missed a day. If they have not missed a day, they may count at night with a blessing.
  • Children: Children who have reached the age of Chinuch are to be educated in the Mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. They are to recite it at night with a blessing [if they have not missed a previous night], following the same laws as adult men. The age of Chinuch is from the age that the child understands the meaning of Sefiras Haomer.

 

  1. When is one to count?
  • The starting date: One begins to count Sefiras Haomoer on the second night of Pesach, which is the 16th of Nissan. [This applies in all areas, even the Diaspora.] This is because the Omer offering was brought on the 16th of Nissan, and one begins to count from the day that the Omer offering is harvested.
  • At night versus day: The Omer must be counted specifically during the night of the 16th, and so too during every subsequent night of Sefira. It is invalid to count the Omer by day. However, some Poskim rule that if one forgot, or purposely did not count, at night then he is obligated to count by day. [See Halacha 17 for the full details of this matter and the final ruling!]
  • When at night? The entire night, up until Alos/daybreak, is valid for counting the Omer. However, initially, it is a Mitzvah Min Hamuvchar to Daven Maariv immediately after nightfall and then count the Sefira immediately afterwards. [This applies towards all the nights of Sefirah. One is to always try to count the Sefira within the first half hour of the night.] If one forgot and did not count the Sefira at the beginning of the night then if he remembered to do so prior to Alos Hashachar, he is obligated to count [with a blessing]. [Initially one is to count the Omer prior to midnight, if he was unable to do so at the beginning of the night. Furthermore, the earlier one counts, the better, as delaying the count causes the side of evil to increase its nurture from Holiness.]
  • May one count before Maariv? It is permitted to count the Sefira before Maariv [after nightfall]. This applies even on Motzei Shabbos, when one extends the Shabbos into the night [and does not Daven Maariv until later]. Nevertheless, it is proper to precede the Davening of Maariv to the counting of the Omer.
  • Is it proper to count the Omer together with a Minyan? It is proper to count the Sefira together with the Minyan. [Thus, one should not leave the Minyan for Maariv until after Sefira.]
  • May one recount with a blessing if he heard someone else count by Bein Hashmashos or Plag Hamincha? See Halacha 15!
  • When to count in the Diaspora on the second night of Pesach: On the second night of Pesach one begins to count Sefiras Haomer immediately after Maariv. However, some Poskim say that those who follow mysticism should count after finishing the entire Seder on the second night in the Diaspora. [Other Poskim however negate this and rule one must count after Maariv, before the Seder, both according to Nigleh and Nistar.] Practically, one who proceeds to say the blessing and count immediately after Davening, is preceded with Divine blessing.  
  1. Eating before counting:
  • One must abstain from eating even a small meal starting from a half hour prior to the time of Sefira, which is a half hour before Bein Hashmashos [i.e. sunset]. This applies even if one has already Davened Maariv but has not yet recited Sefiras HaOmer.
  • If one has someone to remind him: If one lives in an area where the Shamash is accustomed to remind others to recite the Sefira upon the time of Sefira arriving, then one may begin to eat [within the half hour prior to sunset]. [The same allowance applies if one appoints a Shomer/guard to remind him to count Sefira when the time arrives. Likewise, if one has a set Minyan in which he Davens Maariv upon nightfall, then he may eat within the half hour prior to sunset. However, once the time [of sunset] has arrived it is implied from the Poskim that this allowance no longer applies, and hence even if one has a Shomer he must abstain from eating until he counts. Some Poskim however rule that if one has a Shomer or a set Minyan then he may eat prior to counting even after nightfall.]
  • If one already began his meal: If one did not appoint someone to remind him to count and forgot or transgressed and already began his meal within the half hour before sunset, he is not required to stop his meal and count the Sefira [even after the time arrives]. If however, one began his meal after the time of Sefira [i.e. after sunset] then he must stop and count the Sefira in middle of his meal.
  • May one snack prior to counting Sefira? Yes. Definition of snack: The definition of a snack is up to 57.6 grams of bread [or Mezonos] and 57.6 grams worth of an [alcoholic] beverage. One may drink an unlimited amount of other liquids, such as water, tea, and coffee, and eat an unlimited amount of fruits.
  • If one Davens Maariv with a set Minyan every night may he eat a meal prior to counting Sefirah? If one Davens with a set Minyan at a specific time every night then one may eat a meal up until sunset. Regarding eating a meal past sunset in such a case: See above that although from the Shulchan Aruch it is implied that one may not eat a meal past sunset even though he has a reminder set up, nevertheless some Poskim rule that if one has a set Minyan then he may eat prior to counting even after nightfall, and so is the widespread custom regarding Maariv throughout the year.

 

  1. Melacha prior to counting:
  • It is accustomed for both men and women to avoid doing work/Melacha during the entire period of Sefiras HaOmer, from the time of sunset until after counting the Omer. (Possibly, those women who are not accustomed to count the Omer must refrain from work throughout the entire night.) [For this reason, all women should count the Omer and should continue to count the Omer nightly even if they can no longer say a blessing due to missing a day, as otherwise they cannot do Melacha until morning.] [Despite the above ruling, many are not accustomed to abstain from Melacha during this period of time and there are Poskim who have defended their actions.]
  • What form of work is to be avoided? All activities which require effort and take time to accomplish, such as sewing and weaving, are to be avoided. However, simple house chores such as cooking, sweeping, and cleaning are allowed. Likewise, all Melachos that are permitted on Chol Haomed even according to only one opinion may be performed.

 

  1. Standing while counting:
  • The Sefira must be recited in a standing position. Nevertheless, if one counted while sitting, he fulfills his obligation. 
  • Leaning: It is forbidden for one to lean on any item in a way that it supports him from falling while counting the Omer.

 

  1. Counting the days and the weeks?
  • One is to count both the days, and the weeks and remaining days, on every single night of the count.
  • If one did not do so then he fulfills his obligation, with exception to the weekends [i.e. day 7, day 14 etc] in which case one is to repeat the counting with a blessing if he did not count both the days and the weeks.

 

  1. How to count:
  • Saying the word “Hayom/Today”: One must say the word “Hayom/Today is” prior to counting the days. If one counted the amount of days without [first] saying “Hayom/Today is” [i.e. he plainly said “6 days to the Omer”], he does not fulfill his obligation and must thus repeat the counting with a blessing.
  • The prayers said after the Sefira: After the counting of the Sefira it is customary to recite “Yehi Ratzon Sheyibaneh Beis Hamikdash etc” (Some are accustomed for reasons known to them to say after this prayer the Psalm of “Elokim Yichaneinu Vivarcheinu”, Ana Bekoach, and Ribono Shel Olam.) [Practically, so is the ruling of the Siddur and the Chabad custom. Some are accustomed to recite Lesheim Yichud or Hareini Muchan Umezuman prior to counting the Sefira. This is not the Chabad custom.]
  • The Kavana: When counting Sefira one is to have in mind the Sefira of that night, one word of the Ana Bechoach, and one word of the psalm Mizmor Elokim Yechoneinu, and one letter from the verse Yismachu. [It is unclear if these intents are to be held while counting the Sefira, before one counts, or after the count, while reciting the Mizmor.]
  1. In what language is one to count?
  • One may count in any language that he understands. One may not count in a language that he does not understand, even if it is in Lashon Hakodesh. [Thus, if he does not understand the Hebrew counting then he may not count in Hebrew.]
  • If one counted in a language that he does not understand, even if he counted in Lashon Hakodesh, he does not fulfill his obligation [and must recount with a blessing].
  1. The blessing:
  • Prior to counting the Omer at night one must say a blessing, just as is done prior to the fulfillment of every Mitzvah, whether Biblical or Rabbinical.  The blessing is “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Haolam Asher Kidishanu Bemitzvosav Vetzivanu Al Sefiras Haomer.”
  1. Knowing the day of the count before saying the blessing:
  • Lechatchilah, one is not to say the blessing over the Sefira until he verifies which day of the count it is.
  • In the event that one said the blessing prior to knowing which day of the count it is, he has nevertheless fulfilled the blessing and is not required to repeat it prior to verifying and saying that day’s Sefira. [This however only applies if no interval was made between the verification and the counting and the blessing, such as one said the blessing together with his friend, and waited until his friend counted to verify the date, and then he counted. If however an invalidating interval took place between the blessing and the Mitzvah, such as he switched houses, or talked of irrelevant matters, then the blessing must be repeated.] 
  1. Saying or having in mind the wrong day:
  • If one recited the wrong date he is to immediately repeat the correct day, as soon as he remembers. If an invalidating interval was made in-between [such as he spoke to a friend of irrelevant matters or switched rooms in between] then he must also repeat the blessing. If an invalidating interval was not made in-between then the correct date is counted without a blessing. If one remembered within the amount of time it takes him to say “Shalom Alecha Rebbe” then he immediately counts the right number without repeating the words Hayom. If not, then he must repeat the correct number of days starting from the word “Hayom/Today”.
  • Said the wrong date and did not remember until the next night: If one counted the wrong date and only discovered the next night, then it is considered that he did not count that day and he thus may no longer continue counting with a blessing.  See Halacha 21!

 

  1. Counted without intention to fulfill the Mitzvah:
  • If one unintentionally stated the Sefira of that night [i.e. without intent to fulfill the Mitzvah], he is to recount later on at night without a blessing. This however only applies if one said the words “Today is such and such”. If, however, he did not say these words and rather simply said “Such and Such to the Omer”, then he is to repeat the counting with a blessing.
  1. Counting on condition:
  • If for whatever reason one does not desire to count Sefira at a certain time, but is afraid that if he does not count at this time he may forget to count later on, then he may count now without a blessing and have in mind the following condition “If I forget to count at night I am relying on this count to fulfill my obligation. If however I will not forget, then I am now having in mind to not fulfill my obligation with this count.” It suffices to think of this condition in one’s mind, and it is not required to be verbalized.
  1. Fulfilling the Mitzvah through hearing the Sefira from another person:
  • One cannot appoint a messenger to count the days on his behalf.
  • If however one hears the counting from that person, then it is disputed in Poskim as to whether one fulfills his obligation. Practically, one is to initially suspect for the stringent opinion, and therefore not rely on hearing the counting from the Chazzan or other individual, and is to rather count himself.

 

  1. Fulfilling the blessing through hearing the blessing from another person:
  • One may even initially fulfill the blessing through hearing it from the Chazzan, even if he knows how to say the blessing himself. In such a case, one is to count the Sefira immediately after hearing the blessing of the Chazzan.

 

  1. Counting with a blessing after overhearing the Sefira/blessing from another:
  • If one casually overheard the counting of another person, whether from a private individual or congregation, without any particular intent of being Yotzei or not being Yotzei, then it is disputed as to whether he fulfilled his obligation. This dispute applies even if the person who said the Sefira did not have in mind to fulfill the obligation of the listener.
  • Practically, one who overheard the Sefira from another is to repeat the Sefira without a blessing. This applies beginning from Bein Hashmashos. If however one specifically had in mind to not fulfill his obligation with the overhearing of the Sefira, then he is to repeat the Sefira with a blessing. If however he did not have in mind to not fulfill his obligation, then even if he had in mind that he is not intending to fulfill his obligation, he is to repeat the counting without a blessing, as stated above.
  1. How to answer if one is asked “What day of Sefira is it today?”
  • Starting from Plag Hamincha until one counts Omer that night, whenever one is asked that day’s count he is to answer yesterday’s date. If he answered the date of that day then he is to repeat the Sefira without a blessing, with exception to the following cases, in which he is to repeat Sefira with a blessing:
  1. He did not say the word “Hayom/Today.”
  2. He had in mind to not be Yotzei.
  3. It was the end of a week, such as 7, 14 etc, and he did not say the day, but simply said the number of weeks.
  • After Plag Hamincha: If the above reply of “Today is such and such days” occurred prior to sunset [Bein Hashmashos], but past Plag Hamincha, then he has not forfeited the blessing and is thus to repeat the count with a blessing later at night.
  • The asker: The above law only applies to the person who was asked and replied “Today is such and such days”. However, the person who asked the question and consequently heard this reply, has not forfeited his blessing and is thus to repeat the count with the blessing later at night.
  1. Forgot to count at night and remembered during the day:
  • If one forgot to count the Sefira at night and remembered during the day, he is to count the Sefira during the day without a blessing.
  • Until when at night can one count with a blessing? One may count at night with a blessing until Alos Hashachar/dawn. Once dawn has arrived, one can no longer count with a blessing.
  1. Continuing to count with a blessing in the event that one counted during the day:
  • If one forgot to count at night and counted during the day without a blessing, as explained in Halacha 19, then he has not forfeited the blessing of the future nights and may thus continue to count with a blessing on the following nights. This applies whether one forgot to count the Sefira of the first night and counted during the day or whether one forgot to count the Sefira of any other night and then counted during the day.
  1. Forgot to count one full day?
  • If one forgot to count one full day of Sefira [meaning he forgot to count both at night and also the next day] it is disputed in Poskim as to whether he is still obligated in the Mitzvah of counting on the future nights. Practically, the custom is to continue to count on the following nights without a blessing.
  • This applies whether one forgot to count the Sefira of the first night or whether one forgot to count the Sefira of any other night.
  • This applies whether one was negligent in his lack of count, or it was inevitable due to illness, such as if he was in a state of unconsciousness.
  1. Is in doubt if missed a day:
  • If one is in doubt as to whether he counted at night, and he did not count the next day, then he is nevertheless to continue counting with a blessing on the coming nights.
  • Counting with a blessing in a case of other forms of doubts: The above rule applies for all cases in which there is a question as to whether one’s previous count was valid, and he was required to recount without a blessing and did not do so, nevertheless he is to continue to count on the coming nights with a blessing.
  • If the validity of the count of the previous day is held in question on several grounds, may one continue to count with a blessing on the coming nights? In the event that the count of the previous day is held in question on more than one ground [i.e. there are two reasons to invalidate the count, such as one who counted the next day by Bein Hashmashos] then some Poskim rule he is to continue counting without a blessing. Others however rule he is to continue to count with a blessing. Practically one is to continue counting without a blessing and instead is to try to hear the blessing from another person.
  • This dispute applies to any of the following cases:
  1. One counted the next day by Bein Hashmashos.
  2. One knows for certain that he did not count at night and is in doubt if he counted the next day.
  3. One did not count at night but heard the count from the Chazzan during the day.

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