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Q & A: Gerut During Sefira (Conclusion)

QUESTION: I have received the good news that I am going to be accepted as a full-fledged member of the Jewish people. The Beit Din informed me that the gerut
will become effective a short while before Rosh Chodesh Iyar (late May), during Sefirat HaOmer.

Do I continue to count Sefira after my gerut as I have been doing before it? I was told that a similar topic was previously discussed in this column. Perhaps you can help
me with my specific situation.

Avraham b. Avraham (via e-mail)

ANSWER: Last week we began our discussion by noting the similarities between a young boy who becomes bar mitzva during Sefirat HaOmer and a ger whose gerut became effective during the same period. We drew upon a previous discussion in this column regarding the bar mitzva boy, and presented various (opposing) opinions regarding how the bar mitzva boy and the adult about to convert should count before their obligations begin. Some allow initial recitation of a beracha and continuation provided every single day was counted without fail, while others conclude that they should not even start with a beracha, and may subsequently
count with a beracha regardless of previous performance.

Now we present the conclusion regarding the obligations of a young man attaining bar mitzva during Sefirat HaOmer, and other issues regarding the newly converted person.

* * *

“R. Nissan Alpert, zt”l, asks (Limudei Nissan) whether, according to those who say that full seven weeks are required, and therefore one who skipped even one day cannot continue to count with a blessing, because the commandment requires to count 49 days, and missing a single day cancels the fulfillment of the mitzva; or whether we can reason that the counting involves 49 separate mitzvot, and this latter opinion is supported by the fact that we recite a beracha for Sefirat HaOmer each day. R. Alpert injects another concept in the discussion and suggests that since the majority of Poskim rule that today the obligation of Sefira today is Rabbinical, the bar mitzva boy can merge the counting before and after his bar mitzva, since both while he was counting as a minor ‘in training’ and now that he is counting as an adult, the mitzva is Rabbinical. That would also satisfy the halachic decisors who rule that the counting of all 49 days is a single mitzva.

“He further notes Rashi’s opinion that, from a Rabbinic point of view, a minor is not required to observe commandments but that it is the father’s responsibility to educate him (Rashi, Berachot 20b, s.v. Vechayavin bi’tefilla) that the obligation of prayer applies, among others, to the education of children). If that is the case, how can a son (see Gemara ibid.) fulfill his father’s obligation of the Grace after Meals when the father ate a quantity equivalent to a Rabbinical measure? R. Alpert answers that while the requirement proper, the chiyyuv, is not applicable, the performance of the commandment, that is, the kiyyum hamitzva, remains. Since we do not exclude a minor from the performance of mitzvot, we allow him to fulfill his father’s obligation if the need arises.

“He concludes with the argument that since the father is required to educate his son so that he will perform all the relevant mitzvot, which obviously include Sefirat HaOmer, he can hardly
do so with the knowledge that the son will be required to halt the counting in the middle. We are now faced with two choices: not to allow a boy who will reach the age of bar mitzva during Sefirat HaOmer to count at all, or to conclude that our sages ordained that he continue to count with a beracha for the purpose of chinuch. This option would reflect the reasoning of R. Ben Zion Abba Shaul cited above, namely, so as not to weaken the mitzva of chinuch.

The numerous reasons mentioned above seem to indicate that it would be correct for a bar mitzva boy to count with a blessing – and we do assume that he prays with a minyan every day and has been counting the Omer as well.

[See also Piskei Teshuva (20) quoting the Shevet HaLevi, who ruled in a particular case that we rely on the fact that each day is considered a separate mitzva.]“

In your case there are many similarities to the bar mitzva and, indeed, according to halacha, you should count Sefira from the start. The commentary Torah Temima on Parashat Emor
(Leviticus 23:15) states: “In the view of the Poskim (i.e., the majority view), both a young man who has become bar mitzva and a ger should count, but without a beracha, because they have not been able to fulfill the “sheva shabbatot temimot” requirement [in their performance of the mitzva]. Even though, as regards a bar mitzva, we might say that [the days] which he has previously counted should connect to those which he will count to constitute the full seven weeks [sufficient for him to recite a beracha].”

Torah Temima presents proof which should be applicable to both situations. Tractate Yebamot (62a) teaches, “If [one] had children when he was a gentile and he subsequently converted, he is not required [further] in the mitzva of peru urevu (lit., be fruitful and multiply).” Thus we now see that a previous action can connect to a later one, both in the case of a bar mitzva as well as in the case of a ger.

We previously cited the view of R. Nissan Alpert regarding the bar mitzva, but as regarding the ger we might ask whether previous counting counts toward completeness of the count.
Chidushim u’Berurim’s on Shas (37) answer is negative. He bases his decision on the Gemara (Yevamot 22a) which considers a convert similar to a child who has just been born. In effect, the convert is a new person, and previous actions (in this case) are separate from subsequent ones. As regards the Gemara (62a) quoted previously, where both the Rambam and the Tur rule accordingly, we might say that is a special case. As R. Yochanan states he has fulfilled peru urevu, because they [the children] are here, an accomplished fact. But as regards all other matters the ger is considered a newborn child. Thus in our case his previous action cannot count toward constituting temimut.

In Responsa Chesed Le’Avraham (Vol. 2:56) we find a conclusion to the contrary. There we are told that the concern of a lack of “sheva shabbatot temimot” (specifically in performing the
mitzva of Sefirat HaOmer) is only applicable when one did not count on those days on which he was obligated to do so. However, in the case of a ger, where the obligation starts only at the point of the actual conversion, surely there is no issue.

Nevertheless, we go according to the majority opinion (Birkei Yosef 120; Responsa Pri Haaretz Vol. 3:11; Shalmei Tzibbur p. 298; Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayyim 489:15), and in this situation, the ger begins counting Sefira without a beracha.

Tractate Berachot (15a) teaches us that the mitzva is considered accomplished regardless of the recitation of Birkat HaMitzva (for example, in the case of terumot and tithes, where
the requirement for the beracha is of Rabbinic origin, and the fulfillment of the mitzva is not dependent on the recitation of the beracha).

Thus, you may rest assured that even though you do not recite the beracha, you certainly will fulfill the mitzva of Sefirat HaOmer. Obviously, if you are present, in the synagogue, when
the Sefira is being counted you will hear the chazan or rav recite the beracha. By answering “amen,” with the principle of ‘shome’a ke’oneh,’ you will fulfill the rabbinical requirement of a beracha as well.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

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Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

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