Latest update: April 25th, 2013
This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.
The Rambam writes the halachos of Sefiras Ha’Omer in Hilchos Temidim U’musafin (7:22-25). He says that there is a mitzvas assei to count seven complete weeks from the day that the korban omer was brought. The mitzvah is to count the days and the weeks. We count at night because the mitzvah requires that we count at the beginning of the day, which is at night. If one forgot to count at night he may count by day.
One should optimally stand while counting, but if one counted while sitting he has fulfilled his obligation. Women and slaves are exempt from counting the omer. The Kesef Mishneh explains that this is because it is a mitzvas assei she’hazeman gramma (time-sensitive mitzvah). One must recite a berachah every day prior to counting the omer. If one counted without a berachah, he has fulfilled his obligation and should not repeat it.
The Acharonim are bothered as to why the Rambam wrote here the halacha of when one performs the mitzvah without reciting a berachah. The Rambam wrote those halachos in Hilchos Berachos and generally does not repeat them by each individual mitzvah. The Kesef Mishneh comments that this halacha is indeed pashut (obvious). This is because birchas hamitzvos are generally not me’akev the fulfillment of a mitzvah.
Another question is why the Rambam felt the need to write that one should recite a berachah every day. Once the Rambam wrote that one must recite a berachah prior to counting, it should be implicit that we should recite the berachah before each counting. This too should be evident from Hilchos Berachos, where the Rambam wrote that one must recite a berachah prior to performing any mitzvah.
Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zt”l, suggested the following solution: he said that it appears that the Rambam holds that if one does not count for one night and the following day, he can no longer count the omer. This is implied in the Rambam’s writing that if one did not count at night he may count by day, not mentioning that if one forgets to count by day he may still continue counting on the following day. Seemingly this is in line with Tosafos (Menachos 66a), who explain that there is just one mitzvah to count all the days of Sefiras Ha’Omer – not that each day is a separate mitzvah. Therefore, when one fails to count during an entire day (night and day) he can no longer count for the remainder of the omer because he has lost a part of the mitzvah. If we consider each day to be a separate mitzvah to count, he would be permitted to continue counting even if he missed one day.
How does this opinion reconcile with the fact that we recite a berachah every day before we count the omer. If it is all just one mitzvah we should not recite a new berachah each day. The Gemara in Menachos 42b says that we only recite a berachah upon the completion of a mitzvah. The Rambam brings this halacha in Hilchos Berachos 11:8. Based on this, the only time that we should recite a berachah is on the 49th day – when the mitzvah is complete.
Rabbi Moshe Shmuel suggests that the berachah that we recite on Sefiras Ha’Omer is not merely an ordinary birchas hamitzvos; rather the berachah is part of the counting. The mitzvah requires that one count by means of a berachah.
Thus, even though it is all one mitzvah we must recite a berachah each time we count sefirah because it is part of the way we must perform the mitzvah. Even though a general birchas hamitzvos would not be recited until the completion of the mitzvah, here the berachah is not only a birchas hamitzvos – it is also part of the mitzvah itself.
Based on this we can also explain why the Rambam felt the need to write here in Hilchos Sefiras Ha’Omer that we should recite a berachah each time we count. The Rambam is teaching us that this berachah is not like a general birchas hamitzvos, whereby we would not recite the berachah until its completion; rather the berachah is part of the actual mitzvah and thus is recited each night. We can also understand why the Rambam had to write that if one did not recite the berachah he should not repeat it, having already fulfilled his obligation. This is because, based on this, the Rambam is teaching us a great chiddush. After the Rambam informed us that the berachah is part of the counting and therefore we must recite the berachah each time we count the omer, one may think that if one does not recite the berachah he has not fulfilled his obligation.
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