web analytics
July 2, 2015 / 15 Tammuz, 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
ISIS leads captured Egyptian Copts in death march.
Analysis: ISIS Will Go Down to Defeat in Egypt
Latest Judaism Stories
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

To my dismay, I’ve seen that shidduch candidates with money become ALL desirable traits for marriage

800px-Gustav_Jaeger_Bileam_Engel

Bil’am’s character is complex and nuanced; neither purely good nor purely evil.

Staum-062615

Amalek, our ultimate foe, understood that when unified, we are invincible and indestructible.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Perhaps on a deeper level, the mitzvah of parah adumah at this junction was not just to purify the body, but the spirit as well.

Halacha isn’t random; it’s a mechanism guiding individuals and society to a higher ethical plateau.

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Less clear, however, is whether the concept applies to the area of civil law such as the law of transfer of property.

The greatest of men, Moshe, had to wait for Hashem to sprinkle purifying waters on Bnei Yisrael to mark the conclusion of the period of death.

My Plate, My Food
‘My Loaf Is Forbidden To You’
(Nedarim 34b)

Of Chukkim “Satan and the nations of the world made fun.” They may appear irrational & superstitious

I realized from this story that I was sent as a messenger from above. Hashem has many helpers in this world to help do his work.

Tosafos answers that nevertheless the sprinkling is a part of his taharah process.

“What difference does that make?” replied Shraga. “What counts is the agreement that we made. I said two hundred fifty and you accepted.”

Zaidie’s legacy of smiles and loving words was all but buried with him, now the family fights over $

Israel’s complaining frustrated Moshe, making it increasingly hard for him to lead effectively

More Articles from Raphael Grunfeld
Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Less clear, however, is whether the concept applies to the area of civil law such as the law of transfer of property.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Conversely, no part of the Land within the boundaries delineated in Numbers 34 may be relinquished for any purpose whatsoever.

Although it is true that the Final Redemption will be accelerated when all Jews repent and accept the rule of Torah, there is also another scenario for the Final Redemption.

Should just a few communities settle the Land of Israel? Should there be a mass emigration of all Jews worldwide to Israel?

Why did so many of our great sages from the Rambam to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein live outside Israel?

God and the divine origin of His Torah are facts even though we do not fully comprehend them.

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.

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.

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: