Halacha of the Week: Basic Laws of Sefirat HaOmer
Reprinted from Aish/Thornhill Community Shul Bulletin
“U’Sefartem lachem Mi’Mochorat HaShabbat,…”
“And you shall count for yourselves – from the day after the holiday, from the day on
which the waved Omer Offering is brought, seven complete weeks. Until (but not
including) the day after the Seventh Week, you shall count (until) the fiftieth day, and you
shall bring a new Meal Offering to Hashem.”
Jewish Tradition interprets the words “Mi’Mochorat HaShabbat,” as meaning “from the
day after the holiday,” rather than the day after Shabbat, or Sunday. “Holiday” here
means the first day of Passover. Thus, the day of the week on which Shavuot, the fiftieth
day after the beginning of the count, falls, varies and is not always Sunday.
There was a group, called the Tzedukim, who rejected the Traditions of the Rabbis. They
interpreted the Torah literally, and insisted that HaShabbat, as in the above verse, meant
only the Seventh Day; for them, Shavuot therefore always fell on Sunday. They accepted
only the Written Law, but rejected the Oral Law.
For example, when the Torah says, “Lo teva’aru esh b’chol moshvoteichem b’Yom
HaShabbat,” “Do not light any fire in all your dwellings on the Day of Shabbat,” they
understood that to mean that Jews were to stay in cold, dark houses, and eat only cold
food on Shabbat.
The Oral Law would explain that a pre-existing flame, lit before Shabbat, was OK; it was
not the Torah’s intention that we should not have any flame, just that we should not light a
flame! (How could we possibly have survived without hot chicken soup and chulent?)
The beauty of “Halachah,” the Jewish way of life, which recognizes both the Written and
the Oral Law as being of Divine Origin, is that it is able to harmonize statements which
may appear unreasonable by themselves with the clarifying light and interpretation of the
Oral Law, which also came from Sinai.
The Count begins on the night of the sixteenth day of Nisan, preceding the day on which
the Omer Offering was brought at the Temple.
When does the Count end? The Count ends on the forty-ninth night, the night before the
Festival of Shavuot. Shavuot would be the fiftieth night. But it’s not part of the Count.
If one forgets to count at night, he or she repeats the count the following day without a
“bracha,” and then resumes counting with a blessing that night. If one forgets to count in
the daytime as well, it’s “wait till next year” time as far as counting with a “bracha” is
concerned. But one should continue to count on subsequent nights without a “bracha.”
If one is unsure whether one counted, the nightly count should be continued, with a