Last week, we discussed the earliest time for Sefirat HaOmer. This week, we shall discuss the latest time for counting the Omer.
Counting during the Day
The Gemara (Menachot 66a) writes that we should count the Omer at night because of “Temimot”, that the full day should be counted (as we explained last week). Tosafot (ad. loc. s.v. Zecher), in turn, cite a dispute between the Behag and Rabbeinu Tam whether counting the Omer during the day is acceptable B’Diavad (post facto). This dispute hinges on the unresolved Tannaitic debate whether it is acceptable B’Diaved to perform Ketzirat HaOmer (cutting of the barley for the Korban Omer) during the day of the sixteenth of Nissan (although all agree that ideally it should be performed on the night of the sixteenth of Nissan). This issue continued to be debated throughout the time of the Rishonim and no consensus opinion emerged during this period. Hence, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 489:7) adopts a compromise view that if someone forgot to count the Omer at night, he should count the Omer the next day without a Bracha. Interestingly, Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 5:424) notes the practice in Jerusalem for everyone to count the Omer in Shul in the morning without a Bracha, in case someone forgot to count the Omer the previous evening.
Analysis of the Behag’s Opinions
Tosafot in Megillah 20b (s.v. V’Chol) presents an intriguing version of the Behag’s opinion on this matter. They quote the Behag as asserting that if one forgot to count the Omer the previous evening he should count the Omer without a Bracha the next morning or afternoon. This is quite puzzling, as the Behag believes that one fulfills the Mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer during the day. Accordingly, why does the Behag believe that one must omit the Bracha? The Rashash (commenting upon this Tosafot) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 4:43) note that virtually all other sources that cite this view of the Behag indicate or explicitly state that the Behag believes that one may recite a Bracha when counting the Omer during the day. In fact, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik even suggested during Shiur at Yeshiva University in November 1983, that the Tosafot in Megillah contains a scribal error. The Rav suggests that the correct text should read that according to the Behag one should recite the Bracha when counting the Omer during the day.
However, on other occasions, the Rav suggested a way of explaining the presentation of the Behag by the Tosafot in Megillah 20b. The Rav noted another celebrated opinion of the Behag (cited by Tosafot Menachot 66a s.v. Zecher) that one who misses a day of counting the Omer cannot continue the counting of the Omer. The Rosh (Pesachim 10:41) and the Sefer HaChinuch (306) explain that the Behag believes that the forty-nine days of counting the Omer conceptually constitute one Mitzvah. Hence, if one misses one day, he has missed an integral component of the Mitzvah and the Mitzvah can no longer be fulfilled properly.
The Rav, on the other hand, suggests a different explanation of the Behag. He explains that the Behag believes that one is not defined as counting if he has skipped a day. Counting by definition, explains the Rav, requires continuity. The continuity of the counting of the Omer is broken when one forgets a day of counting the Omer. Accordingly, the Rav suggests that according to Tosafot Megillah 20b, the Behag fundamentally agrees with Rabbeinu Tam that Sefirat HaOmer can be conducted only at night. However, counting the next morning or afternoon, the Behag believes, maintains the continuity of the count and permits us to continue counting the Omer the next evening. For a full discussion of the many ramifications of these two approaches to the opinion of the Behag, see Rav Daniel Feldman’s Binah B’Sefarim pp.82-95.
We should note that most Rishonim disagree with the Behag as noted by the Sha’ar HaTziyun (489:46) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (ad. loc.). The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 489:8) adopts a compromise view and rules that if one forgot to recite the Omer one day he should continue to count the Omer without a Bracha for the duration of the count. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid), though, rules (based on a responsum of the T’rumat HaDeshen) that if one is unsure if he counted the Omer on a particular day, he may continue to count the Omer with a Bracha. The reason for this leniency is that there exists a S’feik S’feikah (a double doubt) to be lenient in this case. One Safek (doubt) is whether he recited the Omer on a particular day. The other doubt is perhaps the Halacha follows the many Rishonim who reject the opinion of the Behag.
The Mishna Brurah (489:34 and Shaar HaTziyun 489:45) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (ad. loc.) rule in accordance with the majority of Acharonim who believe the same rule applies to one who forgot to count the Omer during the evening but counted the Omer without a Bracha the next morning or afternoon. They rule that he may continue counting the Omer with a Bracha beginning the next evening because a similar S’fek S’feikah exists. Perhaps the Halachah follows the Behag that Sefirah may be counted during the day and perhaps the Halachah follows the opinion of the many Rishonim who reject the Behag.
We should also note that there is no explicit source in the Gemara to support this opinion of the Behag. He bases his opinion on the Gemara’s requirement that the Sefirah be counted at night because of Temimot (as we discussed earlier). The Behag applies this Gemara to one who misses a day of counting, as he reasons that this counting lacks Temimot (completeness). A major reason for the majority of Rishonim rejecting this view is lack of clear Talmudic sources to corroborate this opinion of the Behag.
One who Forgot to Count until Bein HaShemashot of the next Day
We have seen that if someone forgot to count the Omer at night but counted the Omer the next morning or afternoon, he may continue to count the Omer with a Bracha. People, though, often pose the following question. What if one remembers to count Sefirah only during Bein HaShemashot of the next day? Recall from our previous issue that Bein HaShemashot is the time between sunset (Sh’kiah) and nightfall (Tzeit HaKochavim) and that the Gemara (Shabbat 34b) considers this period to be Safek whether it is day or night. The Acharonim debate whether one may still count the Sefirah with a Bracha on the next day in this situation.
Teshuvot Beit David (O.C. 268) at first suggests that one may continue to count with a Bracha because there exists a S’feik S’feikah. One Safek is perhaps the Halacha does not follow the opinion of the Behag. A second Safek is perhaps Bein Hashemashot is considered daytime and that the Halacha follows the Rishonim who find counting the Omer during the day to be B’Diavad acceptable. He rejects this approach, though, because he believes this is not a legitimate S’feik S’feikah as the second Safek is weak since it is composed of two S’feikot (doubts).
Teshuvot Beit Shlomo (O.C. 102) responds that since the overwhelming majority of Rishonim reject the opinion of the Behag, fundamentally the Halacha should have followed the Behag. However, since the custom to follow the Behag was codified by the Shulchan Aruch we must abide by his opinion (at least to the extent of omitting the Bracha). However, the custom to follow the Behag does not apply in case of Safek such as when someone counted the Omer during Bein HaShemashot. Indeed, the Aruch Hashulchan (ad. loc.) writes regarding a similar question that the opinion of the Behag is a Chiddush (novel approach) to which we limit its applicability. According to the Beit Shlomo, we do not abide by the Behag’s ruling in case of Safek.
Rav Ovadia Yosef (ad. loc.) buttresses this opinion by adding that there is another consideration to be lenient if someone counted Sefirah during what we (Sephardic and non-Chassidic Ashkenazic Jews) assume to be Bein HaShemashot. The leniency is the fact that Rabbeinu Tam considers as day the period that we consider to be Bein HaShemashot. As we noted last week, Rabbeinu Tam and many Rishonim consider day to last until fifty-eight and a half minutes after sunset. Rav Ovadia concludes that we follow the lenient opinion but that it is appropriate for one who does so to count the Sefira only after nightfall (Tzeit HaKochavim) for the duration of the Sefirah, so that his conduct should not be contradictory. One should consult his Rav what constitutes Bein HaShemashot for this purpose. Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited by Rav Aharon Felder, Mo’adei Yeshurun p. 91 and see Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:62) considers only nine minutes after Sh’kiah to constitute Bein HaShemashot for this purpose.
Rav Elazar Meir Teitz and Rav Mordechai Willig both told me that we may not rely on Rabbeinu Tam regarding this matter. For example, if one remembers to count Sefirah at a time when it is night according to the Vilna Gaon (see last week’s Shiur), but it is still day by Rabbeinu Tam’s standard, he may not continue counting the Omer with a Bracha. They both explain that we have accepted with certainty the opinion of the Vilna Gaon and thus we may not rely on Rabbeinu Tam in a lenient direction. For further explanation for this ruling, see Rav Willig’s Am Mordechai, pp.11-16.
Counting the Omer after one has Accepted Shabbat
An interesting question arises if one accepted Shabbat early (before Sh’kiah) and recited Maariv for Shabbat and subsequently recalls that he did not count the Omer the previous evening. Does his counting at this point permit him to continue counting the Omer with a Bracha? This question hinges on the celebrated dispute between the Taz and Maharshal (see Taz Orach Chaim 668) whether one’s accepting Shabbat transforms the time into the next day for matters that are not related to Shabbat such as Aveilut, sitting in the Sukkah, and Hilchot Niddah. Rav Moshe (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:99:3) and Rav Ovadia (ad. loc.) rule leniently on this question, assuming that Tosefet Shabbat does not transform time into the next Halachic day.
It is always a challenge to count Sefirah every night so that we can properly fulfill the Mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer. The striving of Poskim to permit continuing the counting of the Omer with a Bracha reflects the enormous desire of Am Yisrael to fulfill our holy Torah at an optimal level.