A Bar Mitzva Bachur Counting Sefira-Chaim Elya’s Bar Mitzva Drasha

Can a boy who becomes Bar Mitzva in the middle of Sefiras HaOmer continue counting the Omer with a Beracha?

 

Tosafos in Menachos 66a quotes the Bahag that if someone missed counting a day of Sefiras HaOmer altogether, he can no longer continue counting with a Beracha because the counting must be “Temimos”, complete.

Tosafos personally expresses skepticism at this ruling. The Rosh in Pesachim 10:41 elaborates that Tosafos considers each individual day’s count to be a separate and independent Mitzva; consequently, omitting one has no impact on the others.

It is not completely clear whether the Bahag opines that counting all 49 days merely completes one single Mitzva, or perhaps he agrees that each day is a separate Mitzva, but “Temimos” makes them interdependent.

 

The Shulchan Aruch OC 489:8 rules that we must be Machmir for the Bahag’s position, and one who forgot to count one day should not continue with a Beracha. However, he does not conclusively rule in accordance with the Bahag; it is merely a doubtful situation where a Beracha is not recited.

Consequently, in the Beis Yosef he concurs with the Terumas HaDeshen 1:37 that if one is uncertain whether he remembered to count a certain day and is unsure if he omitted it, he may continue to count the following days with a Beracha. Since there is doubt what occurred, and even if he forgot the ultimate Halacha is questionable; the rule of Sfek Sfeika allows him to continue saying Sefiras HaOmer with a Beracha.

 

The Sefer HaChinuch Mitzva 306 explains the Bahag’s position as considering the counting of all 49 days as one single Mitzva.

In this context, the Minchas Chinuch there addresses our original question regarding the Bar Mitzva Bachur who is lacking in a portion of the Mitzva since he only counted the earlier days as a non-obligated minor. He concludes that the Bachur may continue to recite the Beracha for a fascinating reason.

The Magid Mishna Shabbos 29:11 writes that if one made early Shabbos and said Kiddush before sunset, he may continue eating after nightfall based upon that Kiddush. The Mordechai Megila §798 adds that even according to the opinions that Tosefes Shabbos is exclusively of Rabbinic origin while Kiddush on Shabbos is a Biblical obligation, the Rabbinic Kiddush he recited before sunset can be utilized to fulfill his Biblical requirement. The Magen Avraham in Orach Chaim 267§1 quotes the Magid Mishna and Mordechai.

Based upon this precept, the Minchas Chinuch suggests that in our case as well, we can apply a similar concept. Since a minor is required to perform all of the Mitzvos, including Sefiras HaOmer, due to the Rabbinical obligation of Chinuch; his counting prior to the Bar Mitzva can count towards his subsequent Biblical obligation. Consequently, though the status of his counting has changed mid-stream, his situation is vastly different than that of one who failed to count at all.

The need to originate such a comparison is clearly predicated on his acceptance of the Sefer HaChinuch’s understanding of the Bahag. Only assuming that all 49 days are single Mitzva makes it necessary to explain why a Rabbinic fulfillment can combine with a Biblical one to create a “complete” Mitzva. However, if we interpret the Bahag’s requirement of “Temimos” as merely conditioning his count on physically counting each and every day, it is irrelevant whether he fulfilled any obligation at all. In fact, there are Rishonim who opine that one must count every day, but if one was omitted it is sufficient to recite the next day, “Yesterday was x and today is y”. This clearly does not fulfill the missing Mitzva, it merely rounds out a complete count.

 

The Maharam Shick on Mitzva 307 challenges the Minchas Chinuch’s conclusion for a different reason. While it is true that the Magen Avraham cited the Mordechai’s words, in fact his conclusion was to disagree. The Magen Avraham disputed the Modechai’s ruling based upon the Halacha that a minor cannot exempt an adult by reciting Birkas HaMazon for him. Clearly, it is not conclusive that a Rabbinic obligation can exempt a Biblical one.

The Maharam Shick resolves the Magen Avraham’s question by differentiating between the types of Rabbinic precepts. While regarding Kiddush the same individual who has the Rabbinic obligation before nightfall will have the Biblical one later, this is not straightforward regarding Chinuch. In Berachos 48b Rashi writes that the imperative of Chinuch is incumbent upon the father and not the son. According to his opinion, a minor has no Rabbinic obligation to recite Birkas HaMazon or Sefiras HaOmer at all; rather, his father is commanded to educate and train him by doing so. While Tosafos there disagrees, the matter is not resolved.

Consequently, the Maharam Shick concludes that while the Magen Avraham’s challenge to the Mordechai from Birkas HaMazon can be resolved by this distinction, the Minchas Chinuch’s comparison would not be valid as the Mitzva of counting the first half of Sefira was not fulfilled in any manner, even Rabbinic. Ultimately, while he disputes the Minchas Chinuch’s reasoning, in Teshuvos Orach Chaim 2:269 he concurs with the Minchas Chinuch’s ruling permitting the continuation of Sefira with a Bracha for other reasons.

 

In conclusion, it would appear that the majority of Poskim conclude that a Bar Mitzva Bachur who counted Sefiras HaOmer every day prior to his Bar Mitzva should continue to do so with a Beracha. Even if we would consider this ruling questionable, we mentioned previously that there is precedent to count with a Beracha in the presence of multiple doubts, which certainly exist here. First of all, it is not certain that the Halacha follows the Bahag altogether. Secondly, the intent of the Bahag may be merely to require counting 49 days, which was satisfied; but not necessarily fulfilling the Mitzva 49 times. Even if it does, many of the Poskim suggested various justifications to continue counting with a Beracha regardless.

12 thoughts on “A Bar Mitzva Bachur Counting Sefira-Chaim Elya’s Bar Mitzva Drasha

  1. A few questions

    1) Given how this discussion ties the matter to early kiddush, if one counted after bringing in Shabbos early but too early for the right time, would any of this same reasoning say that absent anything else an adult continues counting with a bracha?

    2) If the Bar Mitzvah boy was not counting with a bracha prior to his Bar Mitzvah, either because he didn’t do it at all, or because he definitely missed a day and an adult in that situation would not do so, would the event of his Bar Mitzvah give him a new opportunity to start counting?

    3) Is there any opinion from the gemara which says that he could recite yesterday was X, the before that was x-1, and so on, all the way back to the first day, and then count the current day x+1?

    • 1) Actually, there is discussion in the Poskim on this topic, but it is not directly related to our discussion. The issue largely revolves around whether we can consider the statement “today is day x of the Omer” to be a count at all, when it is not true and day x is only tomorrow, or whether the allowance to Daven MA’ariv then makes it not inaccurate to describe it as already tomorrow.
      2) If the Bar Mitzva Bachur missed a previous day altogether, he is no better than an adult who skipped a day and he certainly should not recite a Beracha as he is not counting a full 49 days.
      3) While there is no mention of such an opinion in the Gemara, there is a minority opinion in the Rishonim (the Maharitz Gei’os) that this is permitted. However, it is not accepted in Halacha.

    • I would have to look this up. However, it seems to me off-hand that he should not count with a Beracha. The Minchas Chinuch’s reasoning for a minor would not be relevant, as the prospective Ger had no Rabbinic obligation to perform Mitzvos. Even according to the logic we suggested that the physical counting should be sufficient to render the numbers “complete”, here the convert is akin to a newborn baby and not the same person who counted the earlier days.

  2. B”H I appreciate the reasoning. If I may, doesn’t a Ger learn for a significant amount of time prior to becoming fully obligated? And during this period of “trying out” a life of mitzvos they are required to do some Shabbos Malachos (and apparently just not holding by the eruv may not be sufficient) while ostensibly keeping all other mitzvos?

    Therefore wouldn’t it be the case that if a modern Ger were observing the counting of sefira with a bracha for their chinuch-like purpose right from Pesach, that they would be in a comparable situation, if they complete their geirus during sefira?

    • While certainly practically advisable, a prospective convert has no “obligation” to fulfill any Mitzvos. Additionally, even though he is definitely learning what he will be required to do after his conversion, similar to a minor, there is nevertheless no obligation of “Chinuch” per se. Therefore, I assume that even the Minchas Chinuch would not permit him to continue counting with a Beracha.

  3. Who is obligated in Chinuch? Is it not the parent who has the obligation to teach the child, and not that the child has any more obligation than a Ger who is still learning? I am not convinced that in a situation where a Ger was in fact allowed to and did recite the bracha for counting and did count each day (or was at least present when a shul’s minyan counted together for everyone present) that he would be prohibited from counting with a bracha once he became obligated in mitzvos. If a prospective Ger wanted to do this would we have any reasoning to allow it, such as comparing his situation to that of a Bar Mitzva bachur?

    • As mentioned in the original Derasha, this is a disagreement between Rashi and Tosafos. The entire premise of the Minchas Chinuch’s Heter to continue with a Beracha is predicated on the assumption that the obligation of Chinush is incumbent upon the child himself. This would certainly not be relevant to a prospective Ger.

  4. Dear Rav Moncharsh, you have been exceedingly kind and accommodating to even let me play in this sandbox. May I please share two more thoughts?

    1) By the original opinion of Tosafos, as we read from The Rosh, wouldn’t there be some reason to permit a Ger Tzedek to begin counting for the remaining days as independent mitzvos?

    2) If a Ger learning for conversion is obligated to follow his rabbi’s instructions, and we live in a time where rabbis can deny geirus to someone perceived to go against their rabbi’s instruction, if the rabbi tells them to count with a bracha and expect to complete their geirus during sefira (or if they are converting to remove doubt, and there is a possibility they already had the Torah obligation) would this be a situation where he would be allowed to continue counting, with a bracha, as a Jew?

    Now, if you grant me some possibility of getting the Ger allowed to continue to count with a bracha, then I’d like to try to apply that back to the case of the Bar Mitzvah bachur.

    For point 1, I’m not qualified to have an opinion as to whether a posek could rely upon a Tosafos.

    But for point 2, I did once hear a shiur about when a bachur might have enough features of maturity to be permitted to layn Parshas Zachor. He said on a practical basis we don’t check for these signs today. But perhaps there is a boy whom we think his parents might be off by a year as to when he was born, or we learn that he meets the halachic criteria to be allowed to layn Parshas Zachor. If we let him layn Parshas Zachor, and we count him for a minyan too, and then comes Pesach, could we let him count Sefira with a Bracha despite their being a presumptive Bar Mitzvah scheduled for him during Sefira?

    (perhaps this boy is the orphaned grandson of a man in a community of only 9 illiterate men – it used to be 10 when his great grandfather was still alive, and they counted him for the shiva minyan since he is actually quite learned.)

    –Chaim

    • Regarding point #1, the Shulchan Aruch rules, and no one disputes, that we may not rely upon Tosafos opinion alone. Only when there is a contributing factor is it permitted to recite the Beracha.
      Regarding #2, a Rabbi instructing a prospective convert would not be sufficient to give him a Rabbinic obligation to count enabling him to continue subsequently with a Beracha according to the Minchas Chinuch. However, if there is doubt regarding his original status it is possible that this too would count as a Sfek Sfeika. We may be able to argue that possible he was always Jewish, and even if not perhaps the Halacha follows the Bahag. It would potentially depend upon the degree of probability that he was always Jewish.
      However, I don’t understand your point regarding the almost Bar Mitzva. To be a Biblical adult one must have both the physical signs as well as a full 13 years. The physical signs alone are never sufficient.

  5. Can there be a boy of doubtful age, that we are unsure if he is 12, 13, or 14?
    Consider a boy who is orphaned and being raised by his grandfather who is not exactly sure of his age, but he knows his birthday is in the middle of sefira. Lets say he is believed to be 12 going on 13 but he already had the signs of maturity which we expect to see by 13 at age 12. So his Bar Mitzva is scheduled for what we think will be his 13th birthday but there a doubt and he may be turning 14. In that situation can we have a Bar Mitzva bachur who is allowed to count with a bracha? Can we decide his situation based on the case of the person who is converting to remove doubt?

    I attempted to strengthen the boy’s situation by describing a hypothetical situation in which some might have utilized his services as if he were already an adult in cases where I have heard that even a 12 year old boy could be utilized, but don’t understand why that is allowed. I heard that for a shiva minyan with only 9 men that a boy who is not yet Bar Mitzvah can be counted for the minyan.

    • I suppose it would be possible for someone to be uncertain of his age. I don’t think physical signs would really be relevant, their existence or lack doesn’t really prove either way. Presumably, this would be similar to the Sfek Sfeika whihc the Terumas HaDeshen permits to continue with a Beracha. The same would likely apply to a convert whose prior Jewish status was truly unresolved. There would have to be significant, but unconfirmed, grounds to suspect he was Jewish all along.
      I am not aware of any case when we would utilize the services of someone who was questionably Bar Mitzva; certainly not to Lein Parshas Zachor.

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