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Posts Tagged ‘Orach Chayim’

Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part VII)

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shmoneh Esreh out loud so that people who may not know how to daven can fulfill their obligation to daven with the chazzan’s repetition. What, however, should the chazzan do when he reaches Kedushah and Modim? I hear some chazzanim say every word of Kedushah out loud and some only say the last part of the middle two phrases out loud. As far as the congregation is concerned, I hear some congregants say every word of Kedushah and some say only the last part. Finally, some chazzanim and congregants say Modim during chazaras hashatz out loud and some say it quietly. What is the source for these various practices?

A Devoted Reader
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 124:1) explains that a chazzan repeats Shmoneh Esreh out loud to fulfill the prayer obligation of those who can’t pray on their own (see Rosh Hashana 33b-34a).

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 125:1) states that congregants should not recite Nakdishach [Nekadesh] together with the chazzan; rather they should remain silent and concentrate on the chazzan’s recitation until he finishes that portion, at which point they should say, “Kadosh, kadosh…” The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk1) explains that congregants should remain quiet because the chazzan is their messenger, and if they say Nakdishach along with him, he no longer appears as their messenger.

Many do not follow the correct responsive procedure for Kedushah, and since the practice is widespread, it may have to be overlooked (Berachot 45a). If the congregants will miss z’man tefillah, however, the Rema (Orach Chayim 124:2) writes that they should quietly recite along with the chazzan until after Kedushah. At least one person who already prayed, even a child, should answer “Amen” to the chazzan’s blessings to substantiates the shlichut of the chazzan. Those praying with the chazzan may not respond “Amen.”

Another prayer style when time is pressing is as follows: The chazzan begins the Amidah, and after “HaKel HaKadosh,” everyone begins their silent Amidah (while the chazzan continues quietly with his own Amidah). (See Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 124 sk8.) This procedure is commonly performed for Mincha, especially in yeshivot.

The tefillah of Modim within the Amidah is so important that Berachot 21b instructs one who arrives late (after kedushah, explains Orach Chayim 109:1) to begin praying only if he will conclude before the chazzan reaches Modim. The Mishnah Berurah (sk2) notes that this applies to a latecomer in middle of birkat keriat Shema attempting to catch up to the minyan and debating whether he should start his personal Amidah after the congregants have started theirs. Tosafot explain that one must bow with the congregation at Modim in order that he not appear as a denier of G-d to whom they are praying (see Rabbenu Tam, Tosafot s.v. “ad sh’lo yagia…” Berachot 21b).

Modim D’Rabbanan is discussed in the Gemara in Sotah. Rav offers a text to recite for Modim and Shmuel, R. Simai, and R. Acha b. R.Yaakov all add more verses to recite. R. Papa says to recite them all – hence the name “Modim D’Rabbanan,” the Modim of (all) the Sages. Our Modim text also includes additions by sages listed in the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 1:5).

We now continue with an important observation by the gaon Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick, zt”l.

* * * * *

Rabbi Soloveitchik (as cited in Nefesh Harav by Rabbi Herschel Schachter, p. 128-129) notes that the congregation should say Modim D’Rabbanan and also listen to the entire Modim of the chazzan. This position is similar to that of several Amora’im who maintain that congregants should recite pesukim during Birkat Kohanim in addition to listening to the kohanim.

Not all sages, however, agree with this position. In Sotah 39b-40a, R. Chanina b. R. Pappa asks, “Is it possible that a servant is being blessed and he does not listen?” The Tur (Orach Chayim 128) adopts this standpoint and states that congregants should not say any pesukim while the kohanim are blessing them because, if they do, they will be unable to concentrate fully on Birkat Kohanim.

Rabbi Soloveitchick reasons that the same logic applies to the recitation of Modim D’Rabbanan. Even if the chazzan says his Modim very loudly, congregants will still find it impossible to both listen to the chazzan and concentrate on their own recitation of Modim D’Rabbanan. Therefore, in his synagogue in Boston as well as at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Soloveitchick instituted that the chazzan recite the beginning of Modim in a loud voice and then pause somewhat to allow the congregation time to recite Modim D’Rabbanan. The chazzan would then continue with his Modim out loud.

Now, if saying Modim D’Rabbanan causes such difficulties, why say it altogether? After all, many authorities rule that we should not say pesukim during Birkat Kohanim. Why should Modim D’Rabbanan be different?

To answer this, we have to take a better look at the Gemara’s question in Sotah 40a: “At the time that the chazzan recites Modim, what does the congregation say?” We should wonder why the Gemara only asks this question about Modim. Why doesn’t it ask, for example, what the congregation says during the berachah of Techiyat Hameitim, Ata Chonen, or Shema Kolenu? Why does the Gemara assume that the congregation should say something during Modim when none of the other blessings of chazarat hashatz have a corresponding prayer?

The Abudarham (Seder Shacharit shel Chol, p.115) resolves our difficulty. He states: “And when the chazzan reaches Modim [in his repetition] and bows, all the congregation bow [as well] and recite their “hoda’ah ketana – small thanks” [i.e. Modim D’Rabbanan]…because it is not proper for a servant to praise his [human] master and tell him, ‘You are my lord,’ by means of a shliach (messenger). [How much more so when the recipient of praise is Hashem.] Rather, every person has to express with his own voice his acceptance of the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom upon himself. If he accepts via a messenger, it is not a complete acceptance, as he can always deny that acceptance and say ‘I never sent him as my agent.’

“However,” the Abudarham continues, “as regards to the rest of the [blessings in the Amidah that the chazzan recites aloud], which is supplication, one can request one’s needs via a messenger because every person seeks that which benefits him. Thus, he will not deny and say, ‘I never sent him [as my messenger].’ ”

The Sefer Kol Bo (Siman 11, Hilchot Tefillah) interestingly points out that the gematria of the word Modim equals 100. This corresponds to the 100 blessings one is required to say each day (Mechaber, Orach Chayim 46:3; also, see Tur ad loc. who attributes this enactment to King David). We thus see an allusion to the additional efficacy of Modim.

If I may, I might add the following. If one adds the number of words in the opening paragraph of Modim to the number of words in Modim D’Rabbanan (nusach sefard, exclusive of the chatimah, “Baruch E-l Ha’hoda’ot”) one arrives at that same number of 100. Thus, it would seem that the efficacy of this blessing enjoys even further enhancement when the prayers of the chazzan and the yachid are combined.

As we thank Him for all His munificence, we hope and pray that Hashem answer all our supplications.

(To be continued)

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.

Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part VI)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shmoneh Esreh out loud so that people who may not know how to daven can fulfill their obligation to daven with the chazzan’s repetition. What, however, should the chazzan do when he reaches Kedushah and Modim? I hear some chazzanim say every word of Kedushah out loud and some only say the last part of the middle two phrases out loud. As far as the congregation is concerned, I hear some congregants say every word of Kedushah and some say only the last part. Finally, some chazzanim and congregants say Modim during chazaras hashatz out loud and some say it quietly. What is the source for these various practices?

A Devoted Reader
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 124:1) explains that a chazzan repeats Shmoneh Esreh out loud to fulfill the prayer obligation of those who can’t pray on their own (see Rosh Hashana 33b-34a).

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 125:1) states that congregants should not recite Nakdishach [Nekadesh] together with the chazzan; rather they should remain silent and concentrate on the chazzan’s recitation until he finishes that portion, at which point they should say, “Kadosh, kadosh…” The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk1) explains that congregants should remain quiet because the chazzan is their messenger, and if they say Nakdishach along with him, he no longer appears as their messenger.

In Sefer Abudarham Hashalem (p. 73-74), Rabbi David Abudarham (1258-1295) states that Nakdishach [Nekadesh] and the like [Keter – Na’aritzach] are devarim she’b’kedushah (matters involving sanctifying Hashem) and require a quorum for recital while the kedushah of Yotzer Ohr and U’va Letziyyon may be said without a quorum. He confirms this as being noted in siddurim of his time. He explains that the latter kedushot refute those who deny G-d’s presence in the world by relating how all creation praises Him. The former kedushot are joint offers of praise with the angels (Rabbi Emden in his Siddur Beit Yaakov).

Many do not follow the correct responsive procedure for Kedushah, and since the practice is widespread, it may have to be overlooked (Berachot 45a). If the congregants will miss z’man tefillah, however, the Rema (Orach Chayim 124:2) writes that they should quietly recite along with the chazzan until after Kedushah. At least one person who already prayed, even a child, should answer “Amen” to the chazzan’s blessings to substantiates the shelichut of the chazzan. Those praying with the chazzan may not respond “Amen.”

Another prayer style when time is pressing is as follows: The chazzan begins the Amida, and after “HaKel HaKadosh,” everyone begins their silent Amidah (while the chazzan continues quietly with his own Amida). (See Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 124 sk8.) This procedure is commonly performed for Mincha, especially in yeshivot.

The tefillah of Modim within the Amida is so important that Berachot 21b instructs one who arrives late (after kedushah, explains Orach Chayim 109:1) to begin praying only if he will conclude before the chazzan reaches Modim. The Mishnah Berurah (sk2) notes that this applies to a latecomer in middle of birkat keriat Shema attempting to catch up to the minyan and debating whether he should start his personal Amida after the congregants have started theirs. Tosafot explain that one must bow with the congregation at Modim in order that he not appear as a denier of G-d to whom they are praying (see Rabbenu Tam, Tosafot s.v. “ad sh’lo yagia…” Berachot 21b).

This week we direct our attention to Modim D’Rabbanan.

* * * * *

Modim D’Rabbanan is referred to in the Gemara in Sotah. The Gemara asks: “At the time that the chazzan recites Modim, what does the congregation say? Rav said: ‘Modim anachnu lach Hashem Elokeinu al she’anu modem lach – We give thanks to You Hashem, our G-d because we [are able – Rashi] to give thanks to You.’ Shmuel added [see Rashi, who says that each of the sages enumerated in this Gemara added to the praise of the one previously cited]: ‘Elokei kol bosor al she’anu Modim lach – G-d of all flesh, since we give You thanks.” R. Simai added: ‘Yotzreinu yotzer bereishit al she’anu modem lach – Our Creator and the Creator of [all in] the beginning.’

Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part V)

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shmoneh Esreh out loud so that people who may not know how to daven can fulfill their obligation to daven with the chazzan’s repetition. What, however, should the chazzan do when he reaches Kedushah and Modim? I hear some chazzanim say every word of Kedushah out loud and some only say the last part of the middle two phrases out loud. As far as the congregation is concerned, I hear some congregants say every word of Kedushah and some say only the last part. Finally, some chazzanim and congregants say Modim during chazaras hashatz out loud and some say it quietly. What is the source for these various practices?

A Devoted Reader
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 124:1) explains that a chazzan repeats Shmoneh Esreh out loud to fulfill the prayer obligation of those who can’t pray on their own (see Rosh Hashana 33b-34a).

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 125:1) states that congregants should not recite Nakdishach [Nekadesh] together with the chazzan; rather they should remain silent and concentrate on the chazzan’s recitation until he finishes that portion, at which point they should say, “Kadosh, kadosh…” The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk1) explains that congregants should remain quiet because the chazzan is their messenger, and if they say Nakdishach along with him, he no longer appears as their messenger.

In Sefer Abudarham Hashalem (p. 73-74), Rabbi David Abudarham (1258-1295) states that Nakdishach [Nekadesh] and the like [Keter – Na’aritzach] are devarim she’b’kedushah (matters involving sanctifying Hashem) and require a quorum for recital while the kedushah of Yotzer Ohr and U’va Letziyyon may be said without a quorum. He confirms this as being noted in siddurim of his time. He explains that the latter kedushot refute those who deny G-d’s presence in the world by relating how all creation praises Him. The former kedushot are joint offers of praise with the angels (Rabbi Emden in his Siddur Beit Yaakov).

Many do not follow the correct responsive procedure for Kedushah, and since the practice is widespread, it may have to overlooked (Berachot 45a). If the congregants will miss z’man tefillah, however, the Rema (Orach Chayim 124:2) writes that they should quietly recite along with the chazzan until after Kedushah. At least one person who already prayed, even a child, should answer “Amen” to the chazzan’s blessings to substantiates the shelichut of the chazzan. Those praying with the chazzan may not respond “Amen.”

Another prayer style when time is pressing is as follows: The chazzan begins the Amida, and after “HaKel HaKadosh,” everyone begins their silent Amidah (while the chazzan continues quietly with his own Amida). (See Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 124 sk8.) This procedure is commonly performed for Mincha, especially in yeshivot.

This week, we turn to Modim.

* * * * *

The tefillah of Modim is so important that we find the following in the Gemara (Berachot 21b): “R. Huna stated, ‘A person who enters a synagogue and finds the congregation in the midst of prayer [the silent Amida] should pray if he is able to begin and conclude [the Amida] before the chazzan reaches Modim. However, if he will not be able to [conclude before the chazzan reaches Modim] he should not pray.’ ”

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 109:1) codifies this halacha as follows: “A person who one enters [a synagogue] after kedushah should pray if he is able to begin and conclude before the chazzan reaches Modim. However, if he will not be able to do so, he should not pray” (emphasis added).

The Mechaber’s citation takes into account the view of R. Yehoshua b. Levi (Berachot 21b, infra) that only if a latecomer is able to commence and conclude in time to recite Kedushah may he begin his Amida. Therefore, when talking about Modim, the Mechaber frames the question in terms of someone arriving after Kedushah has already been said. That person must quickly assess whether, in that short time span, he will have sufficient time to begin and conclude his Amida in time to recite Modim with the congregation. (Of course, if this person will miss z’man tefillah by waiting, he should, without hesitation, immediately begin saying his own Amida.)

Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part IV)

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shmoneh Esreh out loud so that people who may not know how to daven can fulfill their obligation to daven with the chazzan’s repetition. What, however, should the chazzan do when he reaches Kedushah and Modim? I hear some chazzanim say every word of Kedushah out loud and some only say the last part of the middle two phrases out loud. As far as the congregation is concerned, I hear some congregants say every word of Kedushah and some say only the last part. Finally, some chazzanim and congregants say Modim during chazaras hashatz out loud and some say it quietly. What is the source for these various practices?
A Devoted Reader
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 124:1) explains that a chazzan repeats Shmoneh Esreh out loud to fulfill the prayer obligation of those who can’t pray on their own (see Rosh Hashana 33b-34a).

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 125:1) states that congregants should not recite Nakdishach [Nekadesh] together with the chazzan; rather they should remain silent and concentrate on the chazzan’s recitation until he finishes that portion, at which point they should say, “Kadosh, kadosh…” The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk1) explains that congregants should remain quiet because the chazzan is their messenger, and if they say Nakdishach along with him, he no longer appears as their messenger.

In Sefer Abudarham Hashalem (p. 73-74), Rabbi David Abudarham (1258-1295) states that Nakdishach [Nekadesh] and the like [Keter – Na’aritzach] are devarim she’b’kedushah (matters involving sanctifying Hashem) and require a quorum for recital while the kedushah of Yotzer Ohr and U’va Letziyyon may be said without a quorum. He confirms this as being noted in siddurim of his time. He explains that the latter kedushot refute those who deny G-d’s presence in the world by relating how all creation praises Him. The former kedushot are joint offers of praise with the angels (Rabbi Emden in his Siddur Beit Yaakov).

* * * Rabbi Yaakov Emden notes that kedushah is always a responsive recital as it is not proper to say kedushah together with the chazzan. Rather, one should concentrate in silence on what the chazzan is saying. Rabbi Emden’s discussion refers to Nakdishach/Nekadesh of Shacharit and Minchah, or Keter/Na’aritzcha of Musaf. The congregation answers and says aloud, together with the chazzan, the phrases “Kadosh kadosh…,” “Baruch kevod,” and “Yimloch.” This means that not only do the congregants not say Nakdishach/Nekadesh, but they also omit “Le’umatam meshabchim…” and “U’vedivrei Kodeshecha…” as these are the chazzan’s call to the congregation. Indeed, if one studies the text of this prayer, the above is crystal clear.

We see, however, that many do not follow this procedure. While they may be incorrect, if a great number of people do so, we may have to look away, especially if the practice is widespread (Berachot 45a).

There is a notable exception to the above outlined procedure. The Rema (Orach Chayim 124:2) explains that sometimes people fear that if the congregation first says the silent Amidah followed by chazarat hashatz, the congregation will miss z’man tefillah (the proper time for davening). In such a case, the congregation should immediately recite along with the chazzan, word for word (but not louder than him), until after Kedushah. The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk9) is very emphatic that the congregants should also say “Ledor vador” word for word together with the chazzan in such circumstances (for those congregations that have these words printed in their siddurim).

The Rema notes that even in this scenario, at least one person (who already prayed) should answer “Amen” to the chazzan’s blessings. The reason for this is that the recital of “Amen” substantiates the shelichut of the chazzan as a messenger of the congregation, discharging its requirement of tefillah b’tzibbur.

The congregants reciting along with the chazzan, however, cannot say “Amen” because we have a rule that one may not answer “Amen” to one’s own blessings (Mechaber, Orach Chayim 215:1 based on Berachot 45b; cf. Jerusalem Talmud Yevamot 12:1). (There is one blessing which one may answer oneself and that is “Boneh Yerushalayim” in the Grace after Meals. Rashi [Berachot 45a s.v. “Ha b’boneh Yerushalayim”] explains that “Boneh Yerushalayim” is bentching’s last biblically required blessing. Saying “Amen” distinguishes it “Tov U’maitiv” which is only rabbinically required.)

Seudah Shlishit Before Yom Tov

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Question: Whenever a yom tov starts on Sunday (as Shavuot did this year), synagogues generally forego their Seudah Shlishit, eaten after Minchah on Shabbat. But why? If one is supposed to eat a third meal every Shabbos, why skip it if a yom tov starts that night?

Answer: Just because a shul does not host a Seudah Shlishit does not mean that individual congregants should skip this meal. Indeed, doing so would be incorrect. Rather, people should eat this meal on their own, possibly by eating a mini meal immediately after one’s Shabbat afternoon meal.

The reason why shuls do not host Seudah Shlishit when yom tov begins that night is because the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 249:2) states that a person may not eat a meal on Friday afternoon, for if he does, he won’t has an appetite for the Shabbat meal that evening. The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 249:8) cites the Pri Megadim who states that this prohibition also applies on the afternoon before a yom tov due to the mitzvah of oneg yom tov.

Thus, shuls do not host a Seudah Shlishit if yom tov begins that night because they don’t want their congregants to be full when entering yom tov. They want them to be hungry and looking forward to the yom tov meal. However, congregants on their own should make sure to eat Seudah Shlishit earlier in the day.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient for rabbinic leadership and scholarship, has published several books on Jewish law, including his latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Q & A: Staying Awake Shavuot Night

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Question: Many people stay awake Shavuot night and learn Torah. Is this proper considering that one’s davening the next morning may lack kavannah as a result? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get a good night’s sleep and then learn with more fervor the next day?

No Name Please
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, rosh Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim (She’eilat Shlomo 1:26-27, 222 ), discusses this matter at length. The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 494), citing the Zohar, notes that the custom of learning all night on Shavuot is an attempt to rectify our misdeed at Mt. Sinai. When Hashem “arrived” to give us the Torah, we were sleeping and had to be woken up. We therefore stay awake all night nowadays, spiritually rectifying this sin and showing our zeal for Torah.

Rabbi Aviner cautions, though, that one should take into account that staying awake all night may hurt one’s kavannah during Shacharit. If it will, it is far better not to stay awake. Davening with proper concentration is more important than staying up all night since tefillah is a time-related obligation. Rabbi Aviner cites the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 619:11) who makes this same point regarding the custom of staying up all night on Yom Kippur. The Magen Avraham writes that one shouldn’t stay up if it will harm one’s kavannah the next day.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ze’ev Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav (Uvdot Ve’Hanhagot Le’Beit Brisk vol. 2, p. 79), expressed his surprise that people are so particular to stay awake the entire night of Shavuot – which is only a custom – but are not careful to discuss the Exodus from Egypt on Pesach night until they are overcome by sleep – which is an actual law. Indeed, in the city of Brisk, people were not meticulous to stay up all night on Shavuot. They didn’t see the difference between that night and any other night. (One can only imagine the Torah learning of an “ordinary” night in Brisk!) The Brisker Rav also reasoned that learning on Shavuot night is no more important than learning on Shavuot day.

The sefer Ha-Shakdan (vol. 2, p. 240) reports that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was asked by his grandson why he doesn’t stay awake all night on Shavuot and goes to sleep at his usual time of 2 a.m. Rabbi Elyashiv explained that he calculated that if he changed his routine by foregoing his usual few hours of sleep on Shavuot night, not only would he not gain more learning time, but he would actually lose 15 minutes. He therefore preferred to go to sleep at his usual time.

Each person should carefully consider if it is worthwhile for him to stay up all night since there is the concern that “yatza secharo b’hefseido – the gain is offset by the loss” (Avot 5:11).

Those people who will stay up all night, and whose kavannah will not be harmed, should be aware of some pertinent halachot for Shavuot morning.

Tzitzit: A person who wears tzitzit all night should not recite a new blessing on it in the morning. He should try to hear the blessing from someone who is obligated to recite it or he should have his tzitzit in mind when he recites the blessing over his talit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 8:16 with Mishnah Berurah sk42).

Netilat Yadayim: A person should wash netilat yadayim without a blessing or hear it from someone who is obligated to recite it (Shulchan Aruch Harav 4:13). Another option, which is preferable, is that one use the restroom and thus become obligated to wash netilat yadayim according to all opinions (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 4:13 with Mishnah Berurah sk27, 29, 30).

Elokai Neshamah and Ha-Ma’avir Sheinah: The former should be recited without its concluding blessing (“hamachazir neshamot…”) and the latter should be recited sans mention of Hashem’s Name. Better yet, if at all possible, these paragraphs should be heard from someone who is obligated to recite them (one who has slept), since these blessings were specifically established as a praise to Hashem for the daily restoration of our souls and the removal of sleep and thus should only be said if one has slept (Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 47:30 and Biur Halachah). If one sleeps even half an hour, one is obligated to recite these blessings (Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 4:34-35 and Biur Halachah s.v “Dovid v’chulu…”).

Sefirat Ha’Omer At Sunset

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Question: May one recite Sefirat Ha’Omer with a berachah after sunset (shekiah)?

Answer: Yes. The Chayeh Adam (klal 131:6) explicitly rules that according to those authorities who maintain that sefirat ha’omer is a rabbinic mitzvah, it is permitted l’chat’chila to recite sefirat ha’omer after shekiah with a berachah.

The Chayeh Adam (klal 131:1) claims sefirat ha’omer is only a rabbinic obligation since nowadays we no longer cut or bring the omer offering. The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 489:14) clearly states that the majority of halachic authorities maintain that sefirat ha’omer is only a rabbinic mitzvah nowadays. Nonetheless, he maintains that it is proper to wait until nighttime (tzeit hakochavim) to count sefirah since it’s best to avoid performing this mitzvah between sunset and tzeit hakochavim – a time period that is of questionable halachic status.

This ruling, however, is difficult to understand since halacha allows one to perform rabbinic mitzvot with a berachah during this period of time l’chat’chila. Furthermore, the Mechaber (Orach Chayim, 493:4) writes that “women had the practice of refraining from work from Pesach to Atzeret from sunset onwards.” Why? One explanation, offered by the Mishnah Berurah (O.C. 493:19), is that sunset commences the period of time when one should count the omer (according to the Tur). The Bible uses the word “shabatot” in talking about the omer, a word that is related to the word “shevut,” or “rest” – which suggests that one should refrain from work during the period one counts the omer.

Many people forget to count omer if they do not do so it in shul. Therefore, if a congregation davens Maariv early, it is advisable that it count sefirah with a berachah (as long as shekiah has passed). There are more than enough halachic bases and sources to rely on.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has authored several works on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas,” is available at Amazon .com and Judaica stores.

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