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Posts Tagged ‘Rosh Chodesh Iyar’

Q & A: Getting Married During Sefira (Part I)

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004
QUESTION: My friends are getting married on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. I tried to convince them to do otherwise, as many people have a minhag (custom) not to attend weddings until three days before Shavuot. They told me they spoke to rabbis who allowed it. Is this right? May I attend?
Name Withheld by Request
ANSWER: Regardless of your personal minhag in the matter of Sefira observance, you may attend, as we shall explain below.The basis for the observance of mourning during the Sefira period is the Gemara (Yevamot 62b), which states as follows: “It was said that R. Akiva had 12,000 pairs of disciples, from Gibbethon until Antipatris, and they all died in one season because they did not treat each other with respect. Thus the world remained desolate [of their Torah] until R. Akiva came to our Sages in the south and taught them … All of them died between Pesach and Shavuot.”

Based on this Gemara, the Tur (Orach Chayyim 493) states as follows: “It is customary in all places not to take a wife [in marriage] between Pesach and Shavuot, the reason being that we do not excessively celebrate then because the students of R. Akiva died during that time. The R”i Gi’at states that this applies only to marriage, which is the main simcha (joy), but engagements and betrothals are proper. Even concerning marriage, if one went ahead and did it, we [the Beit Din] do not mete out any punishment. However, if a man comes with a request to do so, we do not allow it. This is the edict of the Geonim.”

We note that the Gemara itself offered no instructions regarding mourning, but the Geonim gave their instructions based on the Gemara.

The source for mourning between Pesach and Shavuot is found in a citation attributed to Rav Hai Gaon in Teshuvot HaGe’onim (Sha’arei Teshuva 278): “And that which you asked why we do not marry between Pesach and Shavuot, you should know that this is not because of a prohibition. It is rather because of a custom of mourning, as the Gemara (Yevamot 62b) states – that R. Akiva had 24,000 disciples, and they all died during the period between Pesach and Shavuot because of not acting properly [showing honor] one toward the other, and we further learned that they all died unusually horrible deaths through askara (diphtheria).”

R. Hai Gaon continues, “From that time on, the Rishonim – the early halachic authorities – established the custom not to marry on these days, but they permitted engagements and betrothals.”

Perhaps the reason for this permission is that another person might “anticipate him and marry her,” based on what is stated in Tractate Mo’ed Katan (18b) regarding the Rabbinical prohibition to marry on Festivals: “Ein me’arvin be’simcha - One may not commingle one joy [of Yom Tov] with another joy [of one's wife].” Betrothing on Festivals is permitted for the same reason – lest a rival suitor anticipate him and marry her. It is only the marriage itself that is considered a particularly great joy (as we see in Tractate Sukka 25b).

From the above it would seem that marriages are not performed for the entire period between Pesach and Shavuot, a 49-day period – and that is clearly not the case.

We find a similar account regarding the students of R. Akiva in the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 61:3), with the exception that there is no specific mention of the time period other than quotes from Rashi and Matnot Kehuna, who explain it as being between Pesach and Shavuot, as in our Gemara (Yevamot 62b).

To further answer our question, we find the following in Responsa Tashbatz (Vol. I, Responsum 178): “Be aware that our custom is only to prohibit [marriages] until Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of the Omer). R. Zerachiah Halevi cites an old Sephardic manuscript as a source stating that the students died from Pesach until Peros Ha’atzeret. “Peros” is defined as “half,” which here means not less than sixteen days. [As we learned in a baraita (Megilla 29b), we are supposed to learn about the laws of Pesach 30 days before Pesach, and half of that is 15 days. Fifteen days before Shavuot is Lag BaOmer, for from Lag BaOmer until Shavuot we have 16 days, and part of the 34th day is counted as an entire day (miktzat hayom kekulo), as in all types of mourning, as we learned in Moed Katan (20b, Perek Elu Megalchin.)]

We are thus left (after the 34th day) with 15 days which are the Peros HaAtzeret, which means half of the 30 days in which we are to expound on the laws of Atzeret (Shavuot).

Based on this responsum of Tashbatz, we are left with a total of 33 days of mourning. There are various minhagim as to how we observe these 33 days of mourning. The Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 493:1-3) states as follows: “The custom is not to marry between Pesach and Shavuot until Lag BaOmer, for that is when R. Akiva’s students died…” and he repeats the Tur’s statement that “if one went ahead and married, we do not mete out any punishment.”

We are accustomed as well not to have our hair cut until Lag BaOmer because that is when the students ceased dying, but in fact one should not have his hair cut until the 34th day during the daytime. The Rema notes that in our lands (Ashkenaz) we can have our hair cut starting on the 33rd day.

The Mechaber then states that some are accustomed to have their hair cut on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, and he considers this a serious error. The Rema seems to differ when he cites yet another custom, which permits haircuts until Rosh Chodesh Iyar, but not from Lag BaOmer and on, even though on Lag BaOmer itself it is permitted. On the other hand, those who have their hair cut from Lag BaOmer and on should not do so from after Pesach until Lag BaOmer. The people in a city should not be divided between these two customs lest they violate “Lo titgodedu” (Deuteronomy 14:1), that is, having two obviously different rules in one community.

(To be continued)

Q & A: Gerut During Sefira (Conclusion)

Friday, June 6th, 2003

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.

Q & A: Gerut During Sefira (Part I)

Friday, May 30th, 2003

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
day.

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)

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