The Magen Avraham (beginning of 494) writes an important chiddush concerning the completion of Sefiras HaOmer. Concerning Kiddush on Shavuos night, he states, “On the night of Shavuos one does not make Kiddush until after nightfall, as it says: `They shall be complete.’ ” He cites this halacha from Shut Masas Binyamin.
The Taz (Orach Chaim 494) writes a similar chiddush concerning davening Maariv on Shavuos night. In his words, “Maariv is davened late on Shavuos night, so that the days of the Sefira should be complete.”
In the light of these instructions—which on long summer days can be challenging for our Yom Tov schedule—we dedicate the current article to the issue of temimos, ensuring that the Sefira count is complete. What is the meaning of the temimos concept? Why should making Kiddush or davening early make any difference to the completion of the Sefira count? And which other halachic ramifications does this halachic concept have?
These questions, among others, are discussed below.
Kiddush and Davening Early
One of the sources mentioned by the Magen Avraham for the above halacha is the Shela (in Emek Habracha). Elsewhere (Shavuos, Ner Mitzvah 1), the Shela elucidates the principle at greater length, writing that by making Kiddush early, a person detracts a portion of the final day of the Omer count from the forty-nine days of the Sefira, since the festival of Shavuos must come following the total count of forty-nine days.
Bringing in Yom Tov early by means of Kiddush counters the principle of Shavuos being after the complete days of the Sefira.
By contrast with Kiddush, the Shela writes that there is no problem with davening Maariv before nightfall, since it is possible to daven the night prayer even before nightfall, and doing so does not change the status of the day itself (based on Berachos 27b, which teaches that one may daven the Motzaei Shabbos davening while it is still Shabbos).
He adds that although Kiddush is made in Shul at the end of davening (as is the widespread custom outside of Israel), and if one davens early this Kiddush will be recited before nightfall, this Kiddush is only for guests, and does not “make it seem that the principle of the complete count is violated.”
Shut Masas Binyamin (in the chiddushim printed at the end) likewise quotes the Shela and endorses the chiddush.
The Taz expands the ruling to include even davening early. It seems the Taz understood that there is no room to distinguish between Kiddush and davening, both of which rely on the same brachah: Mekadesh Yisrael Vehazmanim. Like making Kiddush, davening early normally brings in Yom Tov before night. If Kiddush must be delayed until after nightfall, the Taz understood that it is logical that the same will apply to davening Maariv.
Temimos Every Day
The Netziv (see Ha’amek Davar, Vayikra 23:21; Meshiv Davar 1:18; Ha’amek She’ela 167) questions the basic premise on which the chiddush of making Kiddush (and davening) late stands: If bringing in Yom Tov early conflicts with the completion of the count, then surely it should be forbidden to daven Maariv early on every night of the Omer count (which is clearly not the case; see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 489:3)?
Indeed, the Gemara (Menachos 66a) teaches that one must count at night (and not before nightfall) because whole days must be counted (night and day).
Although it can be argued that the entire concept of bringing a day forward by davening early only applies where there is Kedusha to be added—for Shabbos and Yom Tov—we do not find that there is a restriction of davening the Friday night prayer early during days of the Sefira. This indicates that davening or making Kiddush early does not contravene the completion of each day of the Sefira. Why should the last day be different from all others?
In response to the question of the Netziv, it is possible to answer that the issue of temimos applies only to Shavuos, which the Torah defines as a festival that occurs on the fiftieth day, following forty-nine days. Concerning the entire forty-nine days we must be careful to ensure completion; concerning each individual day of the Sefira, there is no problem with davening early. Only on Shavuos night must we be wary of bringing in Shavuos before nightfall.
Another significant point is that according to the Behag all 49 days are one unit, rather than forty-nine individual units of counting. Thus, there will not be a problem of temimos in the middle of the Sefira, but only at its end, if the 49-day unit is not complete.
On This Very Day
On account of his question, the Netziv suggests another reason why one must not make Kiddush or daven early on Shavuos night. In his opinion, this restriction draws from the wording of the Pasuk, which writes of Shavuos: “be’etzem hayom hazeh,” on this very day. The word be’etzem, according to the Netziv, indicates that we cannot add on to the day of Shavuos, and that we can only celebrate the day from nightfall.
This interpretation is not without difficulty. The Ramban (and other Rishonim) interpret the Pasuk differently, and the very concept of someone like the Netziv deriving a new halacha from a biblical interpretation is unconventional.
Moreover, the same wording is used for Yom Kippur and, while Chazal state that when Yom Kippur is brought in early the full stringency of the day (the kares punishment) does not apply (Yoma 81b), they do not state that the word be’etzem implies that the Kedusha of the day cannot be brought forward. On the contrary, one can and must begin the day early.
This is a significant difficulty with the approach of the Netziv.
No Need for Temimos?
Some, due to the inherent difficulty with the temimos concept, dispute the idea, and maintain that there is no issue with bringing in Shavuos early, whether by means of Kiddush or through davening early.
The Rosh (Pesachim 10:2) writes that there is no general concern about bringing in “Shabbos and other festival days early”—which clearly seems to include Shavuos. The Korban Nesanel (2) derives from here that the Rosh did not agree with the chiddush of the Magen Avraham and other authorities, who wrote that one must not bring the festival of Shavuos in before nightfall.
Rav Yaakov Emden (Siddur Amudei Shamayim, Vol. 2, p. 63b) also states that although there are some who state that Shavuos should not be brought in early because of the temimos concept, “this is a new and weak derivation of later authorities.” He proceeds to argue that it is praiseworthy to bring in the festival early, though one should not eat before nightfall.
Sefer Yosef Ometz (no. 850) mentions the stricture of waiting for nightfall (citing Rav Yaakov Polak, a source mentioned by the Shela and others), but writes that the custom in Ashkenaz was not to be concerned about this matter, and to bring in Shavuos early, depending on personal circumstances.
Nonetheless, the custom is to be careful concerning the ruling of the Magen Avraham and Taz, which is quoted verbatim by the Mishnah Berurah.
By contrast with Kiddush, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo 12:2) writes—as is the regular custom—that women may light candles early before Shavuos (if the festival does not fall on Motzaei Shabbos, as it does this year), since the custom to wait only applies to davening and Kiddush.
Explaining the Ruling: A Worthy Custom
Rav Asher Weiss (in a shiur on the subject) suggested that the chiddush of the noted authorities does not mean to suggest an absolute prohibition against Kiddush or davening early, but rather a worthy custom.
As the words of the Shela themselves suggest, making Kiddush early “makes it look like the count is incomplete.” This can be understood not as a violation of a basic Sefira law, but as a recommended custom, in line with the Torah prescription of Shavuos following forty-nine days of counting.
Based on this understanding, he explains why the restriction (according to the Shela and the Magen Avraham) applies only to Kiddush, and not to davening: by contrast with davening, the entire concept of Kiddush is bringing in the holiness of the festival, so therefore custom is only applicable to Kiddush and not to davening.
The custom is certainly cited by later authorities as a halachic principle, and it has become universal practice to refrain from Kiddush and even from davening early on Shavuos night, on account of temimos. In cases of extenuating circumstances, however, there is room for leniency in the matter, based on the opinions which dispute the ruling. A rabbinic authority should be consulted for guidance in such cases.