Sefirat HaOmer

A DOUBT ABOUT COUNTING SEFIRAT HAOMER

If a person is in doubt if s/he counted Sefirat HaOmer on the previous day, the Terumat Hadeshen [37] writes that s/he should continue to count with a blessing, and the Shulchan Aruch agrees [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 489:8]. According to the Pri Chadash, the reason is that there is a double doubt ["s'fek s'feka"]: It is doubtful if he counted or not, and even if he did not count, there is a doubt whether to accept the ruling of the Tosafot, to continue with a blessing even after missing one day. This was also quoted by the Mishna Berura [ibid. note 38], and the Pri Megadim uses this to show that a blessing can be recited in the case of a double doubt [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 143:5]. 

The halacha can be summarized as follows: 

(1) If one forgets to count at night, s/he can count during the following day without a blessing, and then continue the remaining nights with a blessing. 

(2) One who forgets at night and the following day should continue to count without reciting a blessing. 

(3) One who is not sure whether s/he counted (or might have made a mistake in the count) can continue to count with a blessing. 

 

SEFIRAT HAOMER and SHE'HECHIYANU

While there are authorities who forbid purchasing food or items during sefira that would require a blessing of she’he’chiyanu [Eliyahu Zuta 493:1; see further, Natei Gavriel Pesach vol. 3 54:1]; many others permit reciting this bracha and therefore allow people to purchase new clothes and other such items [Mishna Brurah 493:2; Rivevot Ephraim 8:227; Halichot Shlomo - Moadim vol. 2, 11:14 note 53].  

Furthermore, even according to those who are more stringent:

1. Reciting she’he’chiyanu on Shabbat, Yom Tov, Chol HaMoed and Lag Ba’Omer (and other days when the mourning of sefira no longer applies) is permitted [see Tzitz Eliezer 18:41 B’tzel HaChochma 4:48].

2. In the case of need, there are those who permit buying and wearing new clothes [Yabia Omer Orech Chaim 3:26, Yechaveh Daat 1:24].

3. Purchasing a new home, buying furniture, painting or remodeling is permitted [Tzitz Eliezer 18:41:3, Nitei Gavriel Pesach vol. 3 59:4-5; Iggrot Moshe Orech Chaim 3:82].

 

SEFIRAT SHAVING DURING HAOMER

According to the Shulchan Aruch, there are two components to the observance of Sefirat HaOmer. The first is the actual counting of the Omer, something which should be done each night between Pesach and Shavuot.

However, the second component of Sefirat HaOmer, is the period of mourning that we observe during this time. While there are many different customs related to exact dates on which we must mourn, during this period, we have accepted the custom not to perform weddings, not to dance or play live or recorded music and not to get haircuts or shave.

Yet, on this final point, there is some debate among contemporary poskim, especially for men who shave on a daily basis.

According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, if not shaving would lead to significant problems in the business environment, a person is allowed to shave during Sefira [Igrot Moshe Choshen Mishpat 1:93].

According to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Braun, it is permitted to shave on Fridays in preparation for Shabbat [Shearim Ha Mitzuyanim B'halacha 120 note 5].

According to Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, since the level of mourning during Sefira is analogous to the mourning period following shloshim (i.e. "yud bet chodesh), and because the honor due to Shabbat takes precedence over the mourning of Sefira [Taanit 26b], therefore it is an obligation for those who regular shave, to shave for Shabbat during Sefira. 

According to Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, and Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, since a day-old beard for a person who shaves daily is considered unkempt ("Soloveichik, since a day-old beard for a person who shaves daily, is considered unkempt ("k'dei she'yigaaru bo chavereirav"), a person is allowed to shave every day of Sefira. [Nefesh HaRav p. 191].

 

HAIRCUTS & SHAVING WHEN LAG B'OMER FALLS ON SUNDAY

When Lag B’omer falls out on Sunday (as it does this year), shaving and haircuts are permitted on Friday because of "kavod Shabbat" [Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim Rama 493:2]. The reason for this is that tachanun is already omitted on erev Lag B’omer, so technically shaving would be permitted on Shabbat. However, since one cannot shave on Shabbat, the allowance is pushed back to Friday [Nodeh B’Yehuda 1:28].  But, once Shabbat is over, i.e. Motzaei Shabbat, on must wait until the morning of Lag BaOmer to shave [Halichot Shlomo Moadim 2:page 364 note 31] 

Furthermore, many say that shaving is not permitted on Thursday night if one has time to do it on Friday [Mishna Berurah 260:5, Rivevot Ephraim 1:338 and 4:131].  One who started shaving on Lag B’omer may continue after shekia as well (even if he does not shave after Lag B’omer) [Bein Pesach L’Shavuot p. 247 note 1].

 

Listening to Music During Sefirat HaOmer

The Shulchan Aruch [Orech Chaim 493:1] records the tradition that Rabbi Akiva’s students died during the period of sefira, and therefore, we have adopted certain customs of mourning. Yet, nowhere does it mention a prohibition of listening to music. Instead, the first mention of a prohibition of listening to music during sefira is found in the comments of the Magen Avraham (1635-1682) who wrote that if an engagement party is held during sefira, music and dancing is prohibited [ibid. note 1].

Nevertheless, by the late 18th century, the Aruch HaShulchan noted that this prohibition of music during sefira applied to all settings [Orech Chaim 493:2] and HaRav Moshe Feinstein, z"l concurred and wrote that music should not be listened to during sefira [Iggrot Moshe Orech Chaim 2:137].

Yet, when it comes to recorded music there remains a difference of opinion. Most authorities rule that there is no difference between live and recorded music - BOTH are forbidden during sefira [Az Nidberu 8:58; Iggrot Moshe Orech Chaim 1:167; Tzitz Eliezer 15:33]. (In fact, some even forbid listening to acapella music suggesting that the equipment used to play this music has the status of a musical instrument [Shevet Halevi 2:57 and 8:127].) On the other hand, HaRav Mordechai Willig disagrees and rules that since early authorities did not forbid music during sefira, recorded music should be permitted [see also Sheilat Shlomo - HaRav Aviner 1:214].

A further leniency regarding music may apply to classical music. This is because, as noted above, the earliest issues with music during sefira were always associated with dancing. Therefore, classical music, which is not used for dancing, may be permitted. This is reported to have been the position of HaRav Yosef D. Soloveitchik, z”l and Harav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, z”l [Divrei Chachamim 35:420], and is also the position of contemporary authorities such as HaRav Nachum Rabinovitch [Siach Nachum Orech Chaim 35], HaRav Shlomo Dichovsky [Techumin 21] and HaRav Eliyahu Schlezinger [Eleh Hem Moadai 3:63].

However, it should be noted that any leniency regarding listening to music is only in cases where the content of that music is appropriate and according to some, even religiously inspiring. To listen to music whose lyrics contain obscenities or encourage behaviors contrary to Torah law is forbidden.

Thu, July 27 2017 4 Av 5777