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Counting The Previous Day’s Sefirah


Lag Ba'omer

Lag Ba'omer
Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

In this week’s parshah we read about the mitzvah of Sefiras Ha’Omer. Interestingly the reading of this mitzvah coincides with the actual time to perform the mitzvah. The pasuk says, “u’sefartem lachem…sheva Shabbasos temimos – and you should count for yourselves…seven complete weeks.” The mitzvah is to count the days and weeks from the second day of Pesach until Shavuos. One is required to count sefirah at night. We learn from the word temimos that optimally one should count at the beginning of the night so that the entire night can be counted.

One who forgets to count sefirah at night may count during the day without a berachah, and then continue counting the rest of the days with a berachah. If one forgets to count sefirah at night and does not remember to count by day, he may not count with a berachah thereafter.

The following is an interesting question that can commonly arise: One forgot to count Thursday night and did not remember to count during the day on Friday. He then accepted Shabbos early and reminded himself afterwards that he had not counted sefirah. While it is technically still the day (it’s still light outside), this individual has already brought in Shabbos. Do we already consider it nighttime, rendering it too late for him to count for Thursday night’s requirement – and he thus may no longer count with a berachah? Or does the fact that it is actually still daytime enable him to count, even after he has accepted Shabbos?

In answering this question some Achronim refer to a similar halacha from the Taz. The Taz (Teshuvos 600) discusses a scenario where a community did not have a shofar on Rosh Hashanah, which fell out on Friday. After the community accepted Shabbos early, a non-Jew brought them a shofar. Here’s the question: Do we still consider it daytime and thus the shofar can still be blown, or is it nighttime and there is no longer a mitzvah to blow shofar? The Taz gave two reasons for why they could blow shofar. First, accepting Shabbos is similar to making a neder, whereby if it was done b’taos (mistakenly) it is not valid. Since the community would not have accepted Shabbos if they knew that they would be receiving a shofar afterwards, the acceptance was done b’taos – and is not valid.

Second, the Taz, quoting the Beis Yosef in the name of the Smag, says that in regard to calculating the eighth day for a bris milah we only look at whether it is actually day or night. It does not matter if one davened Ma’ariv or accepted Shabbos early; if it is still day the bris will be eight days from the day, not from the night. The Vilna Gaon explains that mitzvos that are not dependent on Shabbos, even if one accepts Shabbos early, are considered as if done during the day. Based on this the Taz ruled that they could blow shofar – even after accepting Shabbos.

Reb Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 4:99:3) discusses whether the Taz’s ruling can be applied to the question of Sefiras Ha’Omer. The first point that the Taz used to permit the community to blow shofar after they accepted Shabbos early was that it was considered that they accepted Shabbos b’taos, since they would not have accepted Shabbos had they known that a shofar was going to be brought. Reb Moshe says that this reasoning can only apply if one only accepted Shabbos (i.e. said “Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos”), but has not yet davened Ma’ariv. But if one already davened Ma’ariv, we will not consider the acceptance of Shabbos to be b’taos.

This is because there are several variations from the Taz’s scenario. In the Taz’s example, the ruling affected an entire community. When an entire community mistakenly accepts Shabbos early, even if they davened Ma’ariv, they do not repeat Shemoneh Esrei. Regarding Sefiras Ha’Omer, however, we are generally discussing an individual who forgot to count the night before. The halacha is that an individual must repeat the Shemoneh Esrei if he mistakenly accepts Shabbos (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 263:14). Therefore if we consider the individual’s acceptance of Shabbos to have been done mistakenly, it will result in rendering the seven berachos that he davened in Shemoneh Esrei to be berachos levatalah – since he must repeat Shemoneh Esrei. How can we assume that in order to fulfill a mitzvah mi’de’rabbanan (according to many opinions Sefiras Ha’Omer is only mi’de’rabbanan nowadays) one would not have accepted Shabbos, if by doing so we create seven berachos levatalah? And perhaps even if it was in order to gain a mitzvah de’oraisa – if we are discussing an individual’s acceptance of Shabbos where he already davened and will have to repeat Shemoneh Esrei – we would not consider his acceptance of Shabbos to be b’taos. This would leave him with seven berachos levatalah.

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