Keeping Track of Time
The Chasam Sofer was a Torah giant, and chidushim on
Shas, Shulchan Oruch and Chumash, as well as many volumes of
halachic responsa were among his numerous published works. He
was both the rosh yeshiva and the rov of Pressburg, a city
which was home to one of the largest yeshivas and communities
of his day. Generations of Torah personalities descended from
him, and even today his offspring continue on his path.
Awed by his numerous accomplishments, someone once asked the
Chasam Sofer how he found time to do so many things. The rov
responded that it had taken him exactly five minutes.
Startled by this response, the questioner asked him to
explain himself. The Chasam Sofer replied that the five
minutes here and there that others tend to waste, he invested
We would all like to emulate the achievements of the Chasam
Sofer, but most of us have difficulty keeping track of time
so meticulously. Once a year however, before accepting the
Torah, we are provided with a gentle reminder that unless we
are cognizant of time, we cannot achieve greatness in Torah.
Counting each day and week helps us to appreciate the
fundamental role that time plays in our relationship with
Hashem, and prepares us to reaccept His Torah on the yom
tov of Shavuos.
Most mitzvas are performed on a daily basis; not fulfilling a
mitzvah on one day won't stop a person doing it the next day.
The exception is Sefiras HaOmer. Since it is performed
over a forty-nine day period, missing one day affects all the
The poskim discuss a number of cases where a person
may find himself in doubt as to whether he fulfilled the
mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. In order to clarify the
halochoh in these cases, we must first determine what happens
if one day of counting is missed. Does this spoil the entire
mitzvah, or may he continue counting?
Many Rishonim rule that each night of Sefiras HaOmer
is a separate mitzvah (Tosafos Menochos 66a; Rosh
Pesochim 10:41). According to this understanding, even if
a person misses one or more days, he still has a mitzvah to
count the rest of the days.
However, some Rishonim rule that if a person misses one day
he has lost his whole mitzvah of counting (Bahag
Menochos 133:3 as cited in Tosafos ibid.).
Based on the above opinions, if a person missed a day of
Sefirah the Shulchan Oruch gives the following
compromise: Since according to the first opinion the mitzvah
is still relevant, he should continue to count. However since
according to the second opinion the mitzvah no longer
applies, he should not make a brochoh (Orach Chaim
489:8). Halachic literature contains many fascinating
cases where rabbonim throughout the centuries were called on
to determine whether someone in such a situation should
continue counting with a brochoh or not.
Across the Halachic Date Line
Mr. Gold loves exotic vacations, and for years has been
longing to take his family to New Zealand. Shortly before
Pesach he calls up his travel agent, who informs him about a
special discount ticket available right after yom tov.
Should Mr. Gold seize this opportunity?
One of the most perplexing issues in halochoh is how to
relate to the Date Line. The Halachic Date Line is located
someplace near the accepted International Date Line, but even
the most basic question of where exactly it is located is a
major dispute among the poskim, and there are many
different opinions about it. Some rule that New Zealand is
actually beyond the point where the date changes, which means
that the day they call "Sunday" over there is really
The poskim grapple with the problem of one who started
counting on one side of the line and in the middle crossed to
the other. According to the above ruling of the Shulchan
Oruch, some rule that if a person went back a day, he should
count the previous day again, though without a
brochoh, and on the following days count with a
brochoh (just like the residents on that side of the
date line). If the person went forward in time and an entire
day was skipped, he should continue counting without a
brochoh (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as cited in
Halichos Shlomo 16:23; Responsa Betzeil Chochmoh
Since there are many differing opinions about this issue, Mr.
Gold should preferably delay crossing the dateline till after
Sefiras HaOmer thus eliminating all issues. After
Shavuos the issue of Sefirah is no longer applicable.
On the other hand, keeping Shabbos and Moadim across
the dateline is an even more complicated issue. For example,
on the east coast of Australia, they are not allowed to go
swimming in the ocean on Sunday because it is still Shabbos
in the water. Before traveling, a halachic authority should
On and Off the Operating Table
Mr. Green has surgery scheduled towards the end of Sefiras
HaOmer. For a thirty-six hour stretch of time during that
period he will be under anesthesia and unable to talk. Should
he forgo counting with a brochoh from the outset, or
should he count with a brochoh as long as he is able
Most poskim agree that even under such conditions Mr.
Green may start to count with a brochoh. Since at the
beginning he is capable of counting he is obligated to do so.
In any event an operation is never certain, and perhaps in
the merit of the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer he'll be
spared from the operation.
Mr. Green's surgery was successful, and the next day the
anesthesia wore off. Unfortunately he found himself confined
to a place where the conditions were unsuitable for
davening or making brochos, and his doctors
told him that he could be moved for twenty-four hours. Mr.
Green should nonetheless count Sefiras HaOmer without
In the summer months, when Shabbos comes in very late, Mr.
Silver and his family have the custom to bring in Shabbos
early and eat before nightfall (See Taz and Graz
Orach Chaim 291; Magen Avrohom Orach Chaim 267).
This raises something of a predicament regarding Sefiras
On the one hand, after accepting Shabbos it is considered to
be Shabbos. On the other hand, since it is still daylight it
cannot really be considered the next day of Sefiras HaOmer
(Shulchan Oruch 489:4).
The halochoh is that one should wait until nightfall to
count. In order to avoid the possibility of missing out on
the mitzvah of Sefirah, Mr. Silver should try to take
every precaution to make sure that he will not forget to
count. Some have suggested to count at a specific point in
the meal every Shabbos e.g. right before dessert. Once
Sefiras HaOmer has become a part of the meal, it is
much less likely that it will be forgotten.
If a person brings in Shabbos and then suddenly remembers
that he forgot to count yesterday, he may still count for the
previous day without a brochoh, and continue counting
the following days (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:89,3;
Kaf HaChaim 489:82.)
Starting from Scratch
A young couple who were not yet mitzvah-observant were guests
of the Silvers for the Friday night Shabbos meal. During the
seudah, Mr. Silver explained the importance of the
mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer, and how it expresses our
heartfelt desire to receive the Torah. The young couple were
so moved by his words that they decided to start keeping this
A convert or a baal teshuvoh who started counting in
the middle of the Sefirah has the same status as
someone who missed a day of counting. Since they have not
counted at all until now, they should not make a
brochoh on their counting (Sha'arei Teshuvoh in
the name of the Birkei Yosef 489:20).
Some poskim say a boy who became bar mitzva during the
Sefirah is in the same position, and he may not count
with a brochoh (Chidushei HaRim as cited in the
Response of MaHarash Engel 7:112; and other
However many poskim dispute this ruling. They write
that if the bar mitzvah boy counted the initial days because
of the mitzvah of chinuch, he may continue counting
the ensuing days with a brochoh (Response Maharam Shick
269; Har Zvi 2:76; Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as
cited in Halichos Shlomo 15:18; and other poskim).
The next day during the morning seudah, Mr. Silver's
son Shlomo asked the following question: During the times of
the Beis Hamikdosh after Beis Din established when
Rosh Chodesh was, messengers would travel throughout Israel
to let everyone know the date of the festivals. Since it was
not possible to inform those living outside of Eretz Yisroel
as to the exact date of the new month, all of the chagim
were celebrated for two days.
If so, asked Shlomo, why wasn't Sefiras HaOmer
originally established to be two days i.e. each day to count
two days? Mr. Silver replied that this would not be
appropriate as it would result in having to count on Shavuos
itself, leading to an inevitable laxity in the honor of the
Chag (Baal Hamaor end of Pesochim).
A similar question is applicable today in a situation where
one is unsure as to the exact day of Sefirah, but can
narrow it down to one of two days. Some poskim suggest
that in such a case one may make a brochoh and count
twice (Responsa Devar Avrohom 1:34). However, the
majority of poskim do not accept this. They say that,
knowing the exact day of Sefirah is a prerequisite to
the mitzvah and "double-counting" is not considered to be a
proper counting (Avnei Nezer Yoreh Deah 248:3 and
Everyone agrees that it is preferable to count in the normal
manner laid out in the siddur. The poskim
enumerate a few ways of mentioning the day of
Sefirah besides the standard way of doing so. However,
all of the following examples only come into consideration if
one already counted in this manner. They are not desirable
ways to count.
What if instead of saying that "Today is the thirty-ninth day
of the Omer" one said, "Today is forty minus one days
of the Omer?" The Mishnah Berurah (489:11)
writes that he will have fulfilled his obligation. The reason
is that this is commonly accepted as a method of counting, as
we find that our Sages refer to the thirty-nine melochos
of Shabbos as forty minus one melochos (Halichos
In Hebrew all of the letters have numerical value. Therefore
when one says today is "Lag B'Omer," he is in essence
proclaiming that it is the thirty-third day of the
Omer, but he should still count formally again without
a brochoh (Sha'arei Teshuva 489:4). However this is
not the case if one asked his friend "Are you going to be
going to Meron for Lag B'Omer"" or alternatively "Is
today Lag B'Omer"? Since there is no counting implied
here, he may count again with a brochoh (Maharshom
Some have the minhag to record the number of
Sefiras HaOmer in their letters (Responsa Minchas
Yitzchok 6:45). This gives rise to an interesting
question: If one wrote the number of the Sefirah
before verbally counting, may he still make a brochoh
on the verbal Sefirah? The consensus of the
poskim is that one may count with a brochoh,
for one does not fulfill the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer
via writing (Responsa Rav Akiva Eiger 29-32 and
others). This is similar to the mitzvos of Krias Shema
and tefilloh which one may only fulfill verbally
(Oruch HaShulchan 489:9).
All's Well That Ends Well
Mr. White's youngest son Shmuel counted properly the first
forty-eight days of the Omer and on the last day as he
was about to count, out of jubilation he exclaimed "This is
the last day of the Omer. I don't believe I was able
to count every day of Sefiras HaOmer without missing
one day!" Has his statement "This is the last day of the
Omer" taken away the possibility of counting the last
day with a brochoh?
Mr. White consulted his rov who told him that he had not lost
his mitzvah. Simply declaring that it is the last day of the
Omer is not considered counting. Shmuel may still make
a brochoh and count the forty-ninth day (Rav Yosef
Shalom Eliashiv shlit"a as cited in Siddur Pesach
In the merit of learning the halochos of Sefiras
HaOmer, may we merit to count all of the days of the
Omer, and to offer the special korbonos of the
Omer and the Shtei Halechem in the newly
rebuilt Beis Hamikdosh.