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Question: We celebrate two days of Passover in chutz la’aretz, the Diaspora, because we are unsure as to which is the first day of Passover. If such is the case, 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 of 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 totally 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 has to begin.

But this still leaves us with a problem in the Diaspora: After we have sanctified the day (Yom Tov Sheni) in the Ma’ariv amidah and the Kiddush, how can we make it mundane (chol) by counting the omer?

* * *


We find in Shibbolei HaLeket HaShalem (chapter 234) that the early halachist Rabbeinu Yeshaya addresses our question. He notes that since sefirat ha’omer is a mitzvah min HaTorah, a biblical commandment, its fulfillment does not result in creating chol, a weekday. However, had it been a mitzvah DeRabbanan, a rabbinical commandment, its fulfillment would indeed create a situation of “mundane.”

Rav Tzidkiya b. Abraham HaRofei, the author of Shibbolei HaLeket, refutes this answer by quoting his brother, Rav Binyamin: “On the contrary, since the mitzvah of sefirat ha’omer is biblical, it supersedes the status of the second day of the holiday, which is only rabbinic.”

The dispute between Rabbeinu Yeshaya and Rav Binyamin should perhaps be understood to mean that since it is a biblical mitzvah, generated by the calendar set out in the Bible, the person is not creating chol, but rather the Torah’s commandment “creates” the chol. However, when it is a rabbinical mitzvah, the onus is on the person, because in this case, he should not perform a mitzvah that causes a diminution in the sanctity of the holiday, even a Yom Tov Sheni.

We are thus left with no answer to our question. Shibbolei HaLeket concludes that we must simply answer that unless we start counting from the second night of Passover, that is, the second day of the holiday, we will have no possibility of performing the mitzvah of “seven complete weeks.” Shibbolei HaLeket does not find this to be a diminution of the sanctity of Yom Tov, as the phrasing of the blessing of the omer counting is the same each night, whether that night is kodesh or chol.

We also find in Tosefot Chachmei Anglia (end of Masechet Pesachim, Machon Yerushalayim edition, page 96) the following answer to our question: “One cannot connect this reason [i.e., that since you have already sanctified it, can you now make it mundane] to anything but the amidah: since you have sanctified it with your prayer, you may not now make it mundane with your prayer, just as we read in tractate Ta’anit (2a) regarding Gevurat Geshamim.” However, regarding the counting of the omer, the rule of “once you have sanctified it” does not apply, since it is not part of the amidah.

In the responsa Pri HaSadeh (Vol. 3:187) we find the following answer: “Of two things, one of which entails a disregard for Yom Tov Sheni, which is rabbinical, and one of which entails a disregard for Yom Tov Rishon, whose observance is commanded to us biblically, it is far better to opt for the one that will be a disregard for Yom Tov Sheni than for the one that will be a disregard for Yom Tov Rishon.”

He adds a novel reasoning: “If he does not bless sefirat ha’omer on the second evening, people will say that it is still the first day [as he will start his count only from the third evening]. Thus, when the [first day of the] festival of Shavuot approaches, people will think that it is not yet the holiday because he did not bless [the omer] on the second evening of Passover, which will be a disgrace for the first day of the holiday [of Shavuot]. Therefore, we bless sefirat ha’omer from the second night of Passover and onward, even in the Diaspora.”

We find the following in Nefesh HaRav by Rabbi Herschel Schachter, shlita, rosh kollel of RIETS at Yeshiva University: “The Rishonim [end of tractate Pesachim] ask the following: ‘Why don’t we count sefirat ha’omer each night twice [i.e., “today is the second day,” and “today is the first day,” etc.] due to the doubtful day?’

“HaRav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, heard a reason why we do not do so from the Kovno Rav [see Devar Avraham]: If a person counts twice due to doubt, i.e., stating that it is either the fourth day of the omer or the fifth day of the omer, he will not have fulfilled his mitzvah at all because a doubtful count is not considered a count. Our Sages stated in the first perek of Bava Metzia regarding ma’aser behemah that it must be the tenth of every ten animals, and not a doubtful tenth.”

Rav Soloveitchik argued with him that even though this is a very nice reason, is it possible that from the time of the Amora’im until the time of Abaye and Rava, when there was a real sefeika deyoma before the institution of the calendar by Hillel the Elder, they never counted the sefirah? Surely we find no mention of such a problem in the Gemara.

Thus, Rav Soloveitchik assumes that where it was necessary – for how else would we be able to fulfill the mitzvah of counting seven whole weeks – they might even have counted in such an unusual manner.

In conclusion, all of this is moot, for now that we have an established calendar and our celebration of the two-day holiday is only due to the minhag of our fathers, as noted in the beginning of tractate Bezah (4b), we count consecutive numbers each night, starting from the second night of Passover until we have counted seven complete weeks – to Shavuot.


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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.