- JewishPath -

Instructions On Counting The Omer ©

By Daniel Kravitz

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Naomi Channah, Mrs. Naomi Lipton Kravitz may she rest in peace, by her son, Daniel Kravitz, and family.

The following notes are provided as a guide to counting the omer.

When Does One Begin To Count The Omer?
On the second night of Pesach, we start to count the omer. One must count standing up. The mitzvah is to count at the beginning of the evening, as you can see the stars. Most people count after maariv with a minyan. On Shabbos and Yom Tov we count after Kiddush so that the sanctification of the day is recited first, but before saying Havdalah in order to delay the departure of the holy day. This is the first step of eleven in counting the omer.

What Does One Do If One Forgets To Count The Omer
If the entire night has passed, and you forgot to count the omer, you should say the blessing the following day with no bracha. When one does this, they may recite a bracha before counting the omer for the next new day.

However if one forgets to say a bracha on the second consecutive day of counting the omer then one may count without saying a bracha.

What Does One Do If One Is Uncertain They Counted The Previous Night?
A person who is uncertain that they counted the omer the previous night may recite a blessing on subsequent nights before counting, although he did not count on the preceding day.

It is preferable to daven with a minyan. It is easier to keep track of the correct count in shul. However if one counts at home or at work they should use a tracking system like we provide at JewishPath by marking off numbering each day as they go excluding Shabbosim and Yom Tovim.
See “Counting The Omer Guide.”

What Does One Do If One Forgets What The Omer Count Is?
If one is not sure what day they are to count they should not ask what day today’s Omer count is when inquiring, but rather ask what day yesterday’s Omer count was.

If the individual responds by saying today is the ,,,,,,,, day of the Omer then that one who said “today is...” is not permitted to recite a blessing later when counting the omer because they have already said the count before reciting the blessing. The following evening they may say a blessing.

Before saying the blessing of the Omer one should know the day they are preparing to count. However, after the fact, if one said the blessing with the intent of counting the number that one heard by a fellow congregant, one fulfils his obligation.

What Does One Do If One Counts The Incorrect Day?
If one recited a blessing with the intention of counting day four then realizes he should have counted day five one should count day five without repeating the blessing. Furthermore, even if one counted day four in error then realizes it immediately then one may count day five without saying a second blessing. However if time has passed one must say a second blessing.

What Does One Do If Shabbos and Pesach Both Occur On Friday Evening?
If the first day of the holiday falls on Shabbos the ma'arovis {liturgical hymn} is omitted and said on the second day. Passover is an exception to this principle, because the ma'arovis of the second night describes the harvesting of the Omer, which was carried out on that night. On the second night, its own ma'arovis is recited even if the first night of Passover falls on Shabbos.

What Does One Do During The First Thirty-Three Days Of The Omer?
During the first thirty-three days of counting the Omer, Rabbi Akiva's students died. So it is proper to observe a partial state of mourning during these days. We do not marry, shave or cut our hair. Most communities have the custom to count these days from the first day of counting the Omer. Thus the restrictions continue until the thirty-third day, Lag B'Omer.

What Does One Do If Rosh Chodesh Iyar Occurs on Shabbos?
When Rosh Chodesh Iyar falls on Shabbos, it is permitted to marry & cut one’s hair on the preceding day, Erev Shabbos, for it is influenced by two holy qualities, the kedushah of Shabbos and the kedushah of Rosh Chodesh.

On Lag B’Omer and from that day on the restrictions are lifted because Rabbi Akiva’s disciples ceased to die. Therefore, certain aspects of celebration are permitted on that day but we do not say Tachanun since some disciples died on this day. The principle is that portion of the day is equal to the entire day. For this reason, we should not marry, shave or cut our hair until daybreak, and certainly not on the preceding night.

When Lag B'Omer occurs on a Sunday, one may shave and cut their hair on Friday out of respect for Shabbos.

Community Variations Of Observing The 33 Days Of Mourning
Certain communities do not enter a state of mourning until Rosh Chodesh Iyar which is sixteen days. They permit weddings, shaving and haircuts during this time but exclude it for the next thirty -three days until the Festival of Shavuos. {One may shave and cut their hair again on the day before the Festival of Shavuos.}

In accordance with this opinion {beginning mourning after sixteen days}, on the day of Lag B'Omer there is no prohibition. If Lag B'Omer occurs on Sunday one may shave and cut their hair on Erev Shabbos, Friday.

Community Variations Of Observing The 33 Days Of Mourning
Certain communities do not enter a state of mourning until Rosh Chodesh Iyar. They begin the prohibition on Rosh Chodesh itself. The first day of the three days of preparation for Shavuos {Hagbollah} is included in this prohibited period. The principle is that a portion of the day is considered as the entire day, & weddings & haircuts are permitted from daybreak. As to this custom as well, on the day of Lag B'Omer there are no restrictions.

Observe The Community’s Custom
One should follow the custom of the community they live in and not observe a different custom even though it may be their custom.

The Sandok, The Mohel and The Father Participating In A Bris
A Sandok ( the person who holds the baby during the bris ), a mohel, and the father of the baby may cut their hair on the day before the bris towards sunset, shortly before they go to shul (for the mincha service). If this is to be held on Shabbos they may shave and cut their hair on Erev Shabbos, Friday.

During All The Sefirah Days One May Be Engaged
One may become engaged and even have an engagement party. Dancing, however is not permitted!

Rest Between Sunset And Counting The Omer
During the 49 days of the omer one should not perform any work from sunset until the counting of the omer. There is an allusion to this: SHEVA SHABBOS ( seven weeks ) resemble the word sh'vus, which means a cessation of activity.

The First Night Of Shavuos
On the first night of Shavuos, we should delay the recitation of the evening service until one can see the stars in the sky. If we recite the prayers beforehand and accept the sanctity of the festival, we would be detracting time from the 49 days of counting the omer. The Torah clearly states ( Lev. 23:15 ) "You shall count seven complete weeks."

Wishing you the best,

Daniel