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Question: We celebrate two days of Passover in chutz la’aretz [the Diaspora – outside the land of Israel] because we are unsure which one is the first day of the holiday. If so, what is the basis for beginning the count of sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Passover?

M. Goldman
Via email



Answer: Since the cutting of the sheaves represents a weekday activity, the question arises how the counting can start on a holiday, albeit a sefeika deyoma.

A similar problem occurs on Shemini Atzeret. The Kesef Mishneh answers that on Shemini Atzeret there would be a contradiction if one sanctifies the festival of Shemini Atzeret and recites leishev basukkah in the Kiddush on the same cup. Sefirat ha’omer, however, is a separate blessing. Secondly, we now have a set calendar and we know that the second evening of Passover is the 16th of Nissan, when the counting of the Omer must begin.

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As simple as the Kesef Mishneh’s second answer to our question seems, Rav Cohen nevertheless cites the Chatam Sofer (Yoreh De’ah, conclusion of Responsa 250), who states as follows: “. . . here again, according to halacha he should also recite Havdalah [on the cup of Kiddush during the second evening of Shemini Atzeret, since we are beki’in bi’keviata deyarcha, i.e., we have a set calendar. This should apply as well for any Yom Tov Sheni, the Second Day of a Festival [on Passover, Shavuot or Sukkot]. Even so, we see that we do not recite Havdalah because of the setirah – the contradiction – that it presents.”

The Chatam Sofer concludes that we must rely only on the first answer of the Kesef Mishneh – that since both are recited on one cup of wine, it would present a stark contradiction. Indeed, we do not recite Havdalah at the conclusion of the first day of the holiday. But regarding sefirah, which is not recited at the same time as the Amidah or the Kiddush, this presents no contradiction.

A matter that the Chatam Sofer does not address, according to the second answer of the Kesef Mishneh, is why we would not recite Havdalah in the Amidah of Ma’ariv on the second evening of the holiday, where we need to differentiate between the first and the second day. This should not be considered a contradiction, as we indeed do recite Havdalah when the first day of the holiday is Shabbat.

Rav Cohen alludes to this fact in the discussion that follows, when he cites Rabad (Temim De’im, siman 245, Glosses on Razeh – R. Zerachya b. Yitzhak HaLevi), who asks a question similar to that of the Kesef Mishneh, and provides, in his second answer, the rule that “after you have already sanctified it (asito kodesh), you may not subsequently make it mundane (chol).” However, after you have made it chol, we do not say that you may not subsequently make it kodesh, as kedushah always follows chol, similar to Shabbat and the weekdays.” [This only further strengthens our question on the Chatam Sofer, for Havdala precedes kedushat hayom in the Amidah.]

Rav Cohen cites the Sha’ar Yissachar (Ma’amar Zeman Cherutenu) regarding the second day of Passover (also found in his Nimukei Orach Chayyim 489:1), who elaborates and explains Rabad’s view as follows: “All is fine and well when our discussion concerns the Kiddush on Shemini Atzeret, when he recites ‘mekaddesh Yisrael veha’zemanim – who has sanctified Israel and the festivals’; namely, where he thus sanctified the festival, he shall not subsequently make it chol [by reverting to the last day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah] to now bless ‘leishev basukkah’ – which manifests that it is still chol hamoed.

“However, regarding sefirat ha’omer, after he has ‘made it chol,’ i.e., he has blessed and counted sefirat ha’omer, which signifies that it is already the 16th of the month [of Nissan, which is chol hamoed], he may now sanctify [the day] by praying the Ma’ariv prayer, as he did the previous evening [because of our custom of sefeika deyoma].”

The obvious question is that when counting the omer on the second night of Passover, the day has already been sanctified – as we already said the Amidah, in which we sanctified the day, and then we counted the omer. Thus, is this not the case of “where you have sanctified it, you may not now make it mundane?”

The answer is simple. One may theoretically count sefirah before praying Ma’ariv (after the appearance of three stars), even on motza’ei Shabbat, and the day will remain sanctified until after Ma’ariv. If so, even when he recites Ma’ariv before sefirat ha’omer, we do not consider that he has sanctified the day. In our instance, it is the first day of Passover, so that is accomplished through kiddush and the Seder.

Consequently, those who follow the custom to count the omer with their family at home at the seder – as indicated in some haggadot – should do so before Kiddush and not after the seder.

However, concerning this explanation of the Sha’ar Yissachar – “After you have made it mundane, you may subsequently sanctify it” – we have two questions. First, why do we not first say the Havdalah and then recite the sanctification of mekaddesh Yisrael veha’zemanim in the Kiddush? Second, how does he deduce that one may count sefirat ha’omer after the appearance of three stars, but before one has prayed Ma’ariv? Do we not have the rule of “tadir veshe’eino tadir, tadir kodem – given the choice, a mitzvah that happens more frequently has precedence over a mitzvah that occurs only occasionally”? Accordingly, how would one count the sefirah, which is only seasonal, before one has prayed Ma’ariv, which is a daily occurrence?

Finally, how did the Sha’ar Yissachar deduce that “asito kodesh – once he sanctified it” refers only to the Kiddush and the Seder? Why not to the Ma’ariv prayer, which is usually recited before sefirat ha’omer?

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.