THE TWO DIMENSIONS OF SEFIRAT HA-OMER AND THEIR HALACHIC RAMIFICATIONS
The issue of sefirat ha-omer (the counting of the Omer) takes up only one chapter in theShulchan Aruch, and receives minimal attention in the gemara. In Menachot 66a we are told that Abaye holds that there is a commandment to count the days as well as a commandment to count the weeks, a view that was followed by the students of Rav Ashi. By contrast, Ameimar holds that while the is a commandment to count days, there is no comparable injunction to count the weeks, since our counting is merely a remembrance of what was done in the Temple. Nevertheless, there are numerous debates that arose subsequent to the gemara about sefirat ha-omer, and while they seem to have no real connection to each other, we will see how they are all linked through a common theme.
Before elucidating the dual nature of sefirat ha-omer, we should survey three of the major debates found among the Rishonim and Acharonim:
Given these debates, we will now attempt to understand the dual nature of sefirat ha-omer. There seem to be two main approaches that we can take to understanding this commandment as a whole (or perhaps the days in general):
With this perspective in mind, we can now re-evaluate the debates raised above. With regard to the status of the commandment of sefirat ha-omer today, it would seem that most Rishonim view this time period in terms of its focus on the Jewish people. As we noted, this idea has roots in the passage from the korban ha-omer to the shtei ha-lechem, a practice that was kept only so long as the Temple existed. As it no longer exists, our counting of the Omer has lost its main motivating factor and it reduced to be a Rabbinic ordinance. By contrast, Rambam and the Sefer HaChinuch sever the ties between the offerings in the Temple and the counting of the Omer, and thus they are able to maintain that our counting today is still Torah-ordained.
With regard to the debate concerning the applicability of "shomei'a k'oneh" to sefirat ha-omer, we can see our ideas brought out best in the views ofRashi and Ritz Giat. Rashi contends that the focus is on each individual and on every detail, and thus no person can have somebody else count on his behalf. On the other hand, Ritz Giat (and the Pri Chadash and the Birchei Yoseif) contends that sefirat ha-omer has intrinsic value, and the focus is thus on the nation as a whole. This being the case, one person can count for another, since everyone is part of the same nation.
Finally, we have the debate concerning whether we are dealing with one integrated unit or forty-nine distinct units. The Behag seems to feel that there is a value to the days of sefirat ha-omer on their own and there is a connection between them and the Jewish people. Thus, they function as one whole unit, and if a person misses even one day he can no longer continue to count. By contrast, Tosafot feel that sefirat ha-omer serves as a preparation for the giving of the Torah, and thus each day is its own unit, its own step on the way up to the high point in Jewish history. Thus, even if one were to miss a day, he can continue his march towards Sinai on the next day.
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