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July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
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Two Aspects of the Mitzva of Counting the Omer

In Israel, the Egged Buses help count the Omer.

In Israel, the Egged Buses help count the Omer.
Photo Credit: Batya Medad

And were the weeks a separate mitzva… we would recite two blessings: “al sefirat ha-omer” (“on counting the omer”) and “al sefirat shevuei ha-omer” (“on counting the weeks of the omer”).

However, the Rambam concludes as follows:

But this is not correct; rather, the mitzva is to count the omer, days and weeks, in accordance with the enactment.

According to the Rambam, we are dealing here with a single mitzva, and not with two mitzvot. But the significance of the two aspects of the mitzva – counting the days and counting the weeks – is not clear.

It may be proposed that this mitzva has two separate fulfillments, but still not reach Rabbeinu Yerucham’s conclusion. In other words, we may be dealing here with two separate fulfillments, but still with only one mitzva. This understanding is connected to the question of the relationship between the two passages from the Torah mentioned at the beginning of the shiur.

When we examine the two passages, we find significant differences between them.

1) Parashat Emor mentions both the obligation to count the weeks and the obligation to count the days, whereas Parashat Re’eh mentions only the obligation to count the weeks.

2) The command in Parashat Emor is stated in the plural, whereas the command in Parashat Re’eh is formulated in the singular.

There is a third difference that seems to undermine Rabbeinu Yerucham’s approach. Parashat Emor relates to the omer offering as a starting point, and the counting connects the omer offering to the shtei ha-lechem offering, whereas Parashat Re’eh mentions only the festival, but not the various offerings.     If we follow the approach that divides the mitzva into two separate fulfillments, the conclusion would seem to be that the mitzva to count the days is connected to the offerings, whereas the mitzva to count the weeks relates to the connection between Pesach and Shavuot, the very opposite of the position of Rabbeinu Yerucham.

In order to understand the significance of the two fulfillments, let us examine the words of the Sifrei (ad loc.):

“Seven weeks shall you count” – in the court. And from where do we derive [that there is an obligation] for each and every individual? Therefore the verse states: “And you shall count for yourselves” – each and every individual.

The Sifrei implies that the mitzva of counting the omer has two focal points: communal counting performed by the court, and individual counting, performed by each and every individual.

Many Rishonim discuss whether there is a mitzva to count the years of shemitta and yovel, just as there is a mitzva to count the omer. The Ramban was inclined to say that there is no such mitzva exists, whereas the Ra’avad and the Tosafot argued that such a mitzva exists, and that it even requires a blessing. The Chizkuni proposed an intermediate position: there is indeed a mitzva to count, but no blessing is recited. What is the meaning of the connection between sefirat ha-omer and this counting?

According to the Chizkuni, sefirat ha-omer also involves counting on the part of the court; however, it also involves the individual counting of each and every individual. It stands to reason that since the Chizkuni maintains that the court does not recite a blessing when counting the years of shemita and yovel, the same may be said about sefirat ha-omer, and therefore a blessing is not recited over the counting on the part of the court, but only over the counting of the individual.

If we apply the Chizkuni’s approach to the Sifrei, it might be suggested – and indeed Rav Yerucham Fischel Perlow explains this way – that if the section in Emor relates to the counting of days, and the section in Re’eh relates to the counting of weeks, it follows that a blessing is recited over the counting of days, but not over the counting of weeks.

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