web analytics
May 5, 2015 / 16 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Laws And Customs Concerning Sefirah


In the movie “The Paper Chase,” a Harvard student rips out a page of the law report so that his fellow student will be unable to read it and will come to the lecture unprepared. About 2,000 years earlier a student lay feverishly ill in the academy of Rabbi Akiva in Bnei Brak. So caught up were the other students in the competitiveness of their learning that they found no time to visit him or take care of him. As the student lay dying, Rabbi Akiva himself entered the sick room, fed him, made him comfortable and swept the dust from the floor. The sick student survived. His peers did not.

Between Pesach and Shavuot, 24,000 of them died from diphtheria because they acted inconsiderately to one another. According to other sources, the students of Rabbi Akiva were massacred by the Romans after the murder of Rabbi Akiva himself. This was because they taught Torah in public, in violation of the Roman decree that forbade the study of all sacred texts.

The behavior of Rabbi Akiva’s students left them particulary vulnerable betweeen Pesach and Shavuot since this period is a time of celestial judgment. Furthermore, as Rabbi Goren points out, the Oral Torah, like the written Torah, could only be given when the Jews lived together in harmony. Accordingly, Rabbi Akiva’s students were not worthy of being the teachers of the Oral Law. The death of so many of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples threatened the very survival of the Oral Law. Only a few students survived to become the standard bearers of tradition. They were Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Elazar Ben Shamua.

To commemorate this sad event, it has long been the custom to adopt certain forms of mourning on the days the students died. There is, however, a difference of opinion as to when the deaths occurred. According to the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch, they died during the 34 days immediately following Pesach, including the day of and the day following Lag B’Omer. Accordingly, one mourns for them from Pesach until daybreak following the day of Lag B’Omer. The Rema points out that because of the festivities of Lag B’Omer, all forms of mourning cease on Lag B’Omer itself.

As is usually the case, people of Sephardi origin follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and do not shave or arrange weddings on Lag B’Omer. People of Ashkenazi origin do shave and arrange weddings on Lag B’Omer. Rav Ovadia Yosef rules that the authorities in Israel must determine the Sephardi or Ashkenazi origin of the couple before registering them for marriage on Lag B’Omer. In cases where the groom is Ashkenazi and the bride is Sephardi or vice versa, the custom of the groom is followed.

The second opinion is that of Tosafot. According to this opinion, no deaths occurred on the 16 days between Pesach and Shavuot, when Tachanun is not recited. Accordingly, there should be no mourning on the seven days of Pesach, the six days of Shabbat, the two days of Rosh Chodesh Iyar and on the day of Rosh Chodesh Sivan. According to the opinion of Tosafot, the thirty-three days of mourning commence only after Pesach and because there is no mourning on the sixteen days indicated, the mourning ends on Erev Shavuot.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein points out that there are an additional three variations on the first opinion and one variation on the opinion of Tosafot, namely that of the Ari, who mourned for the students from Pesach through to Shavuot without any break. The period of mourning that one observes depends on the custom of the community to which one belongs.

The forms of mourning that are observed are not shaving, not taking a haircut, not attending weddings and not listening to music. According to one opinion, one may listen to recorded music when Jewish music with words from the scriptures is being played. In former times, people would also cease all work after nightfall in commemoration of the funerals of the students that took place at night. Engagements and engagement parties are permitted during the sefirah period. The mohel, the father of the child and the sandek may shave in honor of a brit ceremony during the sefirah period.

The playing of musical instruments at an engagement party, brit, bar mitzvah, siyum or pidyon haben ceremony, during the sefirah period is prohibited by the Mishnah Berurah, but is permitted by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. A musician who earns his living playing musical instruments may do so during the sefirah period in the house of a non-Jew. There is a view that a person learning to play a musical instrument may practice during the sefirah period.

One may recite the blessing of Shehecheyanu over a new fruit or a new garment during the sefirah period. Rav Yosef recommends, however, that a new garment be worn for the first time during the sefirah period on Shabbat.

According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, business and professional people who may suffer financial loss if they attend meetings unshaven may shave during the sefirah period. A person who observes the sefirah period through Shavuot in accordance with the second opinion described above may attend a wedding of a person who observes the sefirah period through Lag B’Omer in accordance with the first opinion, described above. He may even shave for the occasion.

Lag B’Omer is a day of celebration for two reasons. First, none of the students of Rabbi Akiva died on that day. Second, it is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the surviving students. According to kabbalistic tradition, on the day Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai lay dying, he transmitted the secrets of the Kabbalah to his students, who wrote them down in the book of the Zohar. On that day the world was filled with Zohar, with light, like the sky in Israel that glows with the flames of bonfires on the night of Lag B’Omer.

About the Author: Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Laws And Customs Concerning Sefirah

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Hillary Clinton and PA acting president Mahmoud Abbas. Nov. 21, 2012
Clinton Said She Will Speak on Benghazi but Only Once
Latest Judaism Stories
Social Media pic

With ubiquitous texting, social media, & email, society is mislead to think that words are ephemeral

Safar-050115-Califlower

Cauliflower is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with – it blends so easily into whatever dish I am preparing.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

It’s an interesting idea, that love is illustrated by understanding another’s needs.

Niehaus-050115

“Keeping” Shabbos means to guard it and make sure to keep every aspect and detail of it.

Pesach is a time when we can grow in this perspective. But merely spending a week working on something will not leave any lasting impression on us.

“There is a diamond necklace that I wear on special occasions,” Mrs. Miller told her husband. “It was recently appraised at $6,000. If need be, we can give that as collateral.”

Morah for a parent is connected to shemiras Shabbos because the Shechina shines on, and through, the Sabbath.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him.” – Vayikra 19:17   When the Torah mentions the obligation to rebuke a fellow Jew, it ends with the words “and do not carry a sin because of him.” The Targum translates […]

The Bais Halevi answers that we must properly define what is considered to be “in the middle of a mitzvah.”

They had realized they would be far from civilization and kosher food and had packed plenty of fresh and canned food as well as making sure there was a microwave in their room which they knew how to kasher.

He was deeply saddened by the thought of her going to her final resting place alone and that it appeared as if she knew no one and had no family who cared about her.

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

The Debt Lives On
‘The Orphans’ Mitzvah To Repay Their Father’s Debts’
(Ketubot 91b)

Rabbi Fohrman asks what’s the connection between animal sacrifices and leaving crops for the poor?

Putting parents before oneself is a step toward putting the more abstract concept of God before self

More Articles from Raphael Grunfeld
Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

In order to be free of the negative consequences of violating a shvu’ah or a neder, the shvu’ah or neder themselves must be annulled.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

The omer sacrifice of loose barley flour was more fitting for animal consumption than human consumption and symbolizes the depths to which the Jewish slaves had sunk.

In most communities the rabbi will perform the eruv ceremony on Erev Yom Tov for all community members.

Are you kidding? You know the non‑Jew is not going to consume your chametz. He is not really paying you for it; neither is he taking possession of it.

First, the punishment for eating chametz on Pesach is karet, premature death at the Hand of God.

This process, which is the most powerful form of kashering, is known as libun.

Hapeh is based on the fact that the person who qualifies the statement is the sole source of the unqualified statement and the court has therefore no choice but to believe her.

Moreover, even if the perpetrator of the capital offense is never actually executed, such as when the fatal act was unintentional, Kam Lei applies and the judge cannot award damages.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/laws-and-customs-concerning-sefirah/2013/04/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: