The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

1)         In the Temple Era, when the Beis Ha-Mikdash stood and the Omer offering was brought, there was a Torah mitzvah to count the Omer Count, which spans from the bringing of the offering until the festival of Shavuos, as the verse states: “You shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Sabbath, from the day on which you brought the Omer offering—seven complete weeks they shall be—until the morrow of the seventh week, you shall count fifty days.”

2)         In times when the Temple does not stand, and the Omer offering is not brought, rishonim dispute concerning whether the Torah mitzvah of counting the Omer applies, or whether the obligation is rabbinic.

3)         Most authorities maintain that in the absence of the Temple, the mitzvah is only a rabbinic enactment. Nevertheless, one must follow stringencies based on the opinions that counting is a Torah mitzvah.

4)         Rishonim also dispute whether or not a distinct mitzvah of counting the Omer applies each day, or whether the entire counting period is included in one continuous mitzvah.

 

The Time of Counting the Omer:

From When to Count

1)         The Count of the Omer begins on the night of the 16th of Nissan, and continues until the eve of Shavuos. The Shehechianu blessing is not made on the first night of counting.

2)         One should count immediately upon nightfall. If one fails to do this, one may count with a blessing for the duration of the night.

3)         One should preferably not count during the bein ha-shemashos period (after sunset but before nightfall). If one counted during the bein ha-shemashos period, one should count again after nightfall, without a blessing.

4)         If the Omer was counted in the bein ha-shemashos period, and was not counted again after nightfall, the remainder of the count may nonetheless be counted with a blessing.

5)         In one prays in a shul where the arvis prayer is recited before nightfall, and the Omer is counted early, one should count together with the congregation (without a blessing), and make a stipulation (by heart) that if he remembers to count again after nightfall, the early counting should not fulfill his obligation to count. This stipulation allows one to count again after nightfall with a blessing. If the stipulation was not made, one must nonetheless count again after nightfall, but cannot recite a blessing.

6)         If one prays daily in such a shul, and is therefore accustomed to making the stipulation, we assume that the early counting (before nightfall) does not imply an absolute fulfillment of the mitzvah, and one may count again (after nightfall) with a blessing despite forgetting to make the stipulation.

7)         Counting before sunset does not fulfill the obligation, and one who counted before sunset must count again after nightfall with a blessing, even if no stipulation was made.

8)         Even after the Sabbath has been accepted on Friday night, one may not count until nightfall, and an announcement should be made reminding the congregation to count the Omer after nightfall. Due to the prevalence of praying early (before nightfall) on Friday night, some insert a table of the Omer Count into their siddur or bencher, so that they will be reminded of the Omer Count when kiddush is recited.

Until When May one Count

9)         The Omer must be counted before the break of dawn. If one forgot to count for the duration of the night, one must count during the next day, without a blessing. This allows one to continue to count the Omer (with a blessing) for the remainder of the Omer Count.

10)      In northern countries, the break of dawn can be as early as midnight, and one must be wary of counting on time.

Other Time-Related Laws

11)      If one forgot to count for the entire night and the following day, but remembered during the time of bein ha-shemashos and counted the Omer, authorities dispute whether one may continue to Count the Omer for the remainder of the count. One may be lenient in this matter (and continue to count).

12)      One who forgot to count the Omer on Friday (meaning, on Thursday night and the day of Friday), and remembered only after accepting Shabbos (for instance, after a woman lights candles, by which she accepts Shabbos), may count the Omer (without a blessing) before night, and continue to count the Omer (from Shabbos and on) with a blessing.

13)      The same ruling applies to one who only remembered to count the Omer after praying arvis (before nightfall). One should count before nightfall, and may continue to count on the following night.

14)      One who forgets to count for an entire night and day cannot continue to count the Omer with a blessing on following nights. Yet, one must continue to count without reciting a blessing. Some add that one should recite: “Yesterday was such and such, and today is such and such of the Omer.”

15)      One should preferably pray the arvis prayer before counting the Omer. With the exception of the first night, one who prays arvis with a late minyan need not count the Omer at the beginning of the night, but should count after the arvis prayer (together with the congregation).

16)      The count of the Omer is recited before the aleinu prayer; some count after the aleinu prayer.

17)      On Motzaei Shabbos, in places where the veyiten lecha prayer is recited, the Omer is counted before the prayer, after kaddish.

18)      One who arrives late in shul, so that the congregation counts the Omer before one has prayed arvis, should count together with the congregation, and pray after counting.

19)      Likewise, one who arrives in shul in time to commence the amidah prayer with the congregation, and therefore intends to pray the amidah prayer immediately and then to recite the shema and its blessings, should pray the amidah prayer and then count the Omer with the congregation. Only after counting the Omer should one return to recite the shema with its blessings.

20)      One who prays at home (without a quorum) should count the Omer at the beginning of the night, after praying the arvis prayer. However, one who is unable to pray the arvis prayer at the beginning of the night may delay the counting of the Omer until later, on condition that one appoints somebody to remind him to count whenever one prays arvis.

21)      In chutz la-aretz, where two days of Yom Tov are observed, and the first day of the Omer count is the second day of Yom Tov, some count immediately after arvis, and some count after the completion of Seder Night. A person should follow the custom of his place.

Exemptions and Laws of Individuals (women, old and sick, bereaved, children)

22)      Women are exempt from counting the Omer. Yet, some authorities state that women have “accepted the mitzvah upon themselves,” rendering them obligated in counting. Nonetheless, even those women who count should preferably could without a blessing.

23)      One who is dangerously ill may count the Omer with a blessing, and need not be concerned that one will be unable to complete the count.

24)      One whose close relative died before he counted the Omer should only count after the burial, provided the burial is before sunset (of the day of the death).

25)      If it is possible that the burial will be delayed until after sunset, one should count immediately without reciting a blessing, and continue to count for the remainder of the Omer Count (with a blessing). If one did not count for the duration of the night and the following day, one cannot continue to count with a blessing.

26)      Children who have reached the age of chinuch should be trained in counting the Omer.

27)      A child who reaches the age of bar-mitzvah during the Omer count, may continue to count with a blessing. Some write (a minority opinion) that one should continue the count without a blessing.

Those who Might not Complete the Count

28)      Somebody who knows that one is forgetful, or knows that one is liable for some reason to forget to count, may begin to count with a blessing. Of course, one should be careful to complete the count, and not to forget to count on any day.

29)      One who has to undergo an operation or physical procedure, and will be unable to count for an entire night and day, may begin to count with a blessing. If, on account of the operation, one fails to count for an entire day, one continues to count without a blessing.

30)      One who was unable to count for one day or more due to illness, cannot continue to count the Omer with a blessing, and continues to count without a blessing.

Eating and Other Activities before Counting

31)      A person who has no fixed time for praying arvis must pray and count the Omer at nightfall, and may not eat or perform other labors before one prays and counts.

32)      Even after one has prayed, but has not yet counted the Omer, such as when arvis was prayed before sunset, may not eat until one counts the Omer. Therefore, one should be careful to recite the shema and to count the Omer immediately at nightfall—for instance, before making Kiddush on Friday night.

33)      One who prays arvis daily at a fixed time, or one who is present in a communal place where arvis is prayed at a fixed time, may eat before the time of prayer arrives.

34)      Even if one has no fixed time for prayer, one may eat before praying arvis and counting the Omer by means of appointing a ‘guard’ (shomer) to remind him to pray and count the Omer.

35)      If one forgets to count the Omer, and remembers after completing the shacharis prayer that one has not yet counted, may not eat until counting.

36)      A women who regularly prays arvis, and counts after praying, may not eat until she prays and counts the Omer.

37)      One who follows the opinion of the Geonim concerning the time of nightfall (approximately twenty minutes after sunset) may eat before sunset.

38)      One who follows the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam concerning the time of nightfall (72 minutes after sunset) may not eat from half an hour before nightfall (from 42 minutes after sunset).

39)      One who has started to eat before sunset need not stop eating after nightfall in order to count the Omer. Yet, if one began to eat after sunset one must stop eating. However, one is able to appoint a ‘guard’ to ensure that one is reminded to count (and to pray arvis) later, and thereby continue to eat. If one is part of a yeshiva or in a communal place, one may also rely on the fixed time of prayer.

40)      One who completed his meal, and needs to count the Omer and to recite Grace after Meals, may choose which of the two to do first. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, one must recite Grace after Meals first.

41)      The Omer should be counted before the Sanctification of the Moon. However, where there is a concern that the moon will soon be hidden by cloud cover, kiddush levanah should be recited immediately, and the Omer counted subsequently.

 

The Blessing and the Recitation of the Count

1)         It has become customary to recite leshem yichud before the counting. Some have written that one should not recite it.

2)         In the leshem yichud paragraph, there are some who object to mentioning “the Positive Commandment of counting the Omer as it is written in the Torah.” The common custom is to recite this sentence.

3)         On the final day of the count there is no need to omit the words “You shall count for yourselves … seven complete weeks … you shall count fifty days.” [Some omit the words.]

4)         In some places the rabbi recites the blessing and the count of the Omer. In other places the chazzan recites the blessing and the count.

5)         The blessing is worded “Who commanded us concerning the count of the Omer.” One who recited “to count the Omer” need not repeat the blessing.

6)         Counting without a blessing fulfills the mitzvah, and one may not (count again and) make the blessing.

7)         Like all blessings of mitzvos, one should stand from the beginning of the blessing. The count should also be made while standing, though counting while sitting fulfills the mitzvah.

8)         One who is sick or weak may sit for the counting of the Omer. If one is able to, one should stand for the declaration of the number of days.

9)         Each person should count for himself, and a person does not fulfill the obligation by means of the chazzan’s count.

10)      If one requested another to count for him, and subsequently heard his counting, authorities dispute whether one fulfilled one’s obligation or not. One should therefore not do this. However, one can ‘recite’ the blessing by means of hearing somebody else’s blessing, provided that both parties intend the blessing to be effective for the listener.

11)      If one heard the count from somebody else, and both intended the counting to fulfill the mitzvah for the listener, the listener should count again without a blessing. One may continue to count with a blessing for the remainder of the count. Therefore, one who is ill and cannot count for himself should hear the count from another.

12)      A chazzan who needs to count out loud, and forgot to count on one of the days, may not recite a blessing, but should appoint somebody else to recite the blessing out loud. Some have written that an arrangement may be made whereby the chazzan recites the blessing out loud on behalf of one of the congregants, and this arrangement may be relied on under extraneous circumstances.

13)      One must count in a language one understands. If one does not understand lashon ha-kodesh, one should read a translation first (and learn the meaning of the words), or count in an understood language .

14)      Some say ba’omer and some say la’omer; both are valid.

15)      From the seventh day and on, the number of weeks is also counted. Some say the words la’omer before the number of weeks, and some say the word after the number of weeks.

16)      From the eleventh day and on, one recites “today is eleven yom” (not yamim).

17)      The number of days of the count must be known before commencing the recitation of the blessing. However, one who recites the blessing with the intention of hearing the number of days from somebody else (and thereby finding out which day it is), fulfills his obligation (of the blessing), even if one waited for a short period of time between the blessing and the counting.

18)      One may not interrupt in the middle of counting the Omer, even for answering Amen.

19)      However, if the number of days has already been stated, but not the number of weeks, one may interrupt to respond Amen. Preferably, one should subsequently repeat the number of days.

20)      On days on which a week is completed (7 days, 14 days, and so on), it is possible that one may not interrupt at all.

21)      One fulfills the obligation of counting even without reciting a blessing. Therefore, one should beware not to mention the number of days before counting with a blessing. If asked concerning which day it is, one should respond: “Yesterday was such and such.”

22)      After the count the prayer for the rebuilding of the Temple is recited. One should focus intensely on the words.

23)      Some say a chapter of Psalms (Yechaneinu) after the count, and it should be recited standing. It is also customary to recite ana bekoach, and to focus on a different word for the forty nine days of the Omer. Some add a prayer for purity and sanctity.

24)      Where kiddush is recited in shul, the Omer is counted after kiddush. Where havdalah is recited, the Omer is counted before Havdalah.

 

Mistakes and Cases of Doubt

1)         If in doubt over whether one counted or not, one should count (again) without a blessing. If one did not notice the doubt, and did not count again until the next night, the count may be continued (in subsequent days) with a blessing.

2)         One who is not in town, or bedridden, and has no access to a calendar by which to know which day it is, should count both (or more) days that might be right. After finding out what the right count is, one continues to count the correct day with a blessing.

3)         One who fails to say “today,” but only completed the blessing and added “two days of the Omer,” does not fulfill the obligation, and must repeat the count (and the blessing).

4)         From the seventh day and on the days and the weeks are counted. If days were counted without weeks, the count should be repeated without a blessing.

5)         If weeks were counted but not days, one must repeat the count with a blessing.

6)         If on the eighth day one recited “today is seven days and one day” one fulfills one’s obligation, and the count should be repeated without a blessing.

7)         The count is expressed in the male form (shnei, not shtei). If the female form was used, one fulfills the obligation. She same applies to the word she-hem (not she-hen).

8)         From the eleventh day and on the word yom (not yamim) is used. One who says yamim fulfills his obligation.

9)         The smaller number is stated before the larger number: “one and twenty.” If the order is reversed one fulfills the obligation.

10)      On the first day one recites “Today is one day.” If one recites “Today is the first day” one fulfills one’s obligation.

11)      One who counts the thirty ninth day as “Today is forty days minus one day” fulfills his obligation.

12)      Authorities dispute the status of one who counts in letters (aleph for the first day, or mag for the forty-third day). One should therefore repeat the count without a blessing; one who counted in this manner may continue to count the remainder of the days with a blessing.

13)      One who writes (for instance, on a letter) the number of the days has not fulfilled his obligation, and may count verbally with a blessing. However, if one writes “12 days of the Omer” (rather than 12 of the Omer, or 12 of the count of Israel) should count verbally without a blessing.

14)      If one forgets to count for the entire night and following day, having written the number of days (see above), one may not continue to count in following days with a blessing.

15)      One who states the correct day of the count, and then corrects himself mistakenly and states the wrong day, fulfills his obligation.

16)      One cannot fulfill one’s obligation by means of thought alone.

17)      When asked after sunset which day it is, before having counted the Omer, one should respond: “Yesterday was such and such.”

18)      If one responded “the count is such and such,” one may still count with a blessing, because the word “today” was not mentioned. If one responded “today is such and such” in the first week of the count, one may no longer recite the blessing. In subsequent weeks, if the response did not mention the number of weeks, one may repeat the count with a blessing.

19)      If one replied that yesterday was the tenth day, and in fact yesterday was the ninth and today the tenth, one may count again with a blessing.

20)      If one asks another if today is the tenth day, and the other replies “yes,” both may repeat the count with a blessing.

21)      If one mentions the correct count of the Omer by way of study, authorities dispute whether or not one may repeat the count with a blessing.

22)      If one states “today is lag ba’omer,” with the intention of the ‘festival’ of lag ba’omer and not the count of days, one may count with a blessing.

23)      If one recited the blessing with the wrong day in mind, but counted the correct day, one fulfills the obligation. Even if the wrong day was mentioned, but the right day was mentioned immediately (within kedei dibbur), one fulfills the obligation. However, if the mistake is not corrected immediately, or if one has already begun the recitation of harachaman, one should repeat the count with the blessing.

24)      If one counted the wrong day but counted the right number of weeks and days (e.g. today is seventeen days, which is two weeks and two days), the correct count should be repeated. If one fails to count again, some authorities maintain that the remainder of the Omer may be counted with a blessing.

25)      If the above mistake was made on a day that completes a week (14, 21, 28), then the obligation has certainly not been fulfilled, and the remainder of the Omer may not be counted with a blessing.

 

For Sources Please see Hebrew Version

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