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Q & A: Gerut During Sefira (Part I)

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: Indeed, to answer your question we will refer to that earlier discussion, which concerned a young man who attains the age of bar mitzva during the time of Sefira. The question was whether he begins counting with a beracha after his bar mitzva.

We had assumed that the young man had counted Sefira all along, even before his actual bar mitzva, just as you indicate that you will (have been) count Sefira before your gerut. (Just as the young boy did, you are obviously performing the other mitzvot as well, despite not being obligated to do so, for the purpose of chinuch. This shows that you accept all the mitzvot without exception and in all their practicalities. In this manner, when they become incumbent upon you, you will be able to perform them without hesitation.)

Indeed, logic tells us that you, too, should continue in your count, but without a beracha, due to the concept of “sheva Shabbatot temimot”, as we shall see further.

Let us look at our previous discussion (JP 05/07/99), and then we will discuss your specific situation.

“It is written in Parashat Emor (Vayikra 23:15), “U’sefartem lachem mimochorat haShabbat miyom havi’achem et Omer hatenufa, sheva Shabbatot temimot tih’yena – You shall count
from the morrow after the Sabbath (i.e., the morrow after the first day of Pesach), from the day you bring the Omer of the wave offering, seven complete weeks shall there be.”

Commenting on this verse, the Talmud (Menachot 66a) discusses the appropriate time to cut the sheaves and start the counting of the Omer. The literal meaning of the pasuk, namely, “miyom havi’achem,” “from the day” the Omer is brought, indicates that the counting starts in the day. But how can we achieve a count of 49 full days, or seven complete weeks, if the count is started in the day? Therefore, in the Beit Hamikdash era, the sheaves were cut at night to enable the beginning of the counting, and the offering was brought to the Temple the next

This is where your question comes into play. The mitzva of Sefirat HaOmer consists of counting 49 full days, each “day” being a 24-hour period, or me’et le’et, in order to arrive at the 50th day after the Omer offering, Shavuot. Therefore, if someone misses even one day he is not in accordance with the essence of the mitzva.

But the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim 489:8, Hilchot Pesach) states: If he forgot to recite the blessing, whether on the first day or any of the other days, he counts the subsequent days
without a beracha.” The Mishna Berura ad loc. explains that the phrase “if he forgot to recite the blessing” means that he did not count (on that day) at all, and did not remember until the
following evening. Thus we see that if one misses the count even on one day, one forgoes the blessing but continues to count just the same.

The question is: What is the reason for the ruling that he continues to count, albeit without a blessing? Did he not forgo the mitzva by missing that one day?

R. Simcha Ben Zion Isaac Rabinowitz actually discusses this question in his Piskei Teshuvot on the Codes (5:25). He states that according to a majority of the halachic decisors among the
Acharonim (Ktav Sofer, Maharam Shick, Minchat Eleazar, to name just a few), a minor who reaches maturity during Sefirat HaOmer continues to count with a beracha – provided he has
counted the Omer with a beracha from the beginning, which he probably did anyway for chinuch purposes (see Mishna, Yoma 82a, regarding mitzvat chinuch, the training of children in the fulfillment of commandments). Thus, according to the Gaon R. Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Responsa Or LeTziyyon 1:95), a minor who reaches maturity may continue to count the Omer with a beracha so that we do not weaken the Rabbinic mitzva of chinuch. And just as the mitzva of chinuch applies to a minor, so should it apply to an adult (upon whom this particular mitzva is not considered incumbent at that particular point in time, since he has not counted the Omer up to that day).

On the other hand there are noted Poskim, such as Chidushei HaRim, Avnei Nezer and Birkei Yosef, to mention a few, who are in disagreement with this position. They rule that a minor, even if he counted with a beracha for purposes of chinuch, does not count with a blessing when he attains maturity because his prior counting cannot be combined with his counting in his new status, when counting the Omer has become a Biblical obligation for him.

Still another school of opinion is represented in Responsa Chesed LeAvraham (56), the Responsa of Maharash Engel (7:112), and Tzitz Eliezer (14:20) by R. Eliezer Waldenberg, who all rule that even if, while a minor, the young man has not counted the Omer, he may start to count with a blessing upon reaching maturity. They reason that the incumbency of counting
applies from the day the boy reaches the age of bar mitzva, and therefore the concept of “sheva Shabbatot temimot” also starts, for him, on that day.

The Piskei Teshuvot nevertheless concludes that we follow the first [lenient] rule mentioned above – that a minor who has attained the age of bar mitzva during Sefirat HaOmer may continue to recite the count with a beracha, but only if he has not missed a single day of the counting while still a minor. He also adds that such a young man should not be put in a position to serve as a representative to fulfill another adult’s obligation (lehotzi) to count the Omer. For an adult, counting the Omer is a Biblical obligation, whereas the obligation of the recent bar
mitzva boy might only be a Rabbinical obligation according to some Poskim.

The discussion presented by Rav Rabinowitz is also found in Minchat Chinuch (Mitzva 306). The author discusses the arguments of both sides and concludes that since the bar mitzva
boy has started the counting of the Omer ? albeit as “eino metzuveh,” namely, not “required” but for purposes of chinuch – he may complete the count, and the prior counting he has done
is not canceled.

(To be continued)

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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