Posts Tagged ‘Litvishe Yeshivos’

Omer? Laomer? Baomer? Shehayom? Sefiras Haomer Misconceptions Debunked and Nusach Demystified – עומר? לעומר? בעומר? שהיום? מהו הנוסח האמיתי של ספירת העומר

May 6, 2011

(a rendering based on a shiur by Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger שליט”א at Torah Way)

What is common to טו בשבט, עשרה בטבת, שבעה עשר בתמוז, ול”ג בעומר?

Answer – The date. The way the date for all these, including תשעה באב, is rendered. As ‘be’ – be-Av, be-Shevat, not li-Shevat. Lag  ba-omer, not la-omer.


Some time ago a gentleman from Antwerp asked me, why do the Ashkenaz (German Ashkenaz) siddurim have, not lag ba-omer, seemingly ‘everybody’ has that, but hayom yom sheini לעומר? It should be בעומר (seemingly), as we see from the expression ל”ג בעומר, which ‘everybody’ uses.

I have here two identical siddurim which I found here in this בית מדרש, absolutely identical, at least externally, and they are so different. One is labelled Sefard and the other Ashkenaz. I opened the Ashkenaz siddur, and found hayom yom echad בעומר.  I opened the Sephard siddur and found hayom yom echad לעומר. So this seems to be the big difference between the BESHT and Vilna Gaon….old Ashkenaz and the Sephardim. That Ashkenaz says בעומר and Sepharad לעומר.

But it really isn’t. It has nothing to do with those old mesoras at all. So he, this gentleman, comes up with a point, that there is a problem with those people that say la’omer, because they say la-omer, even though they call the thirty-third day lag ba-omer. That is a contradiction.

And why, he asked me, why do you Yekkes also say la’omer, like the Chassidim?


So let’s investigate and see if this expression, which is so dear to us, lag ba’omer…..let us see if this is an ancient expression (to say בעומר) and if it is common or accepted all over the Jewish world in the past.

So I opened a few seforim, of the olden times, from various countries around the world. A sort of United Nations of seforim from different areas.

1) I open ספר האורה דבי רש”י, a sefer written in the beis medrash of Rashi, תלמידי רש”י wrote it, a French sefer from some nine hundred years ago. So he, that sefer, says, כד הוו שבעה יומי, when it comes to the seventh day, אומר היום שבעה ימים לעומר. He’s not Chassidish, and he’s not Litvish, he’s French, and he says לעומר.

2) Now we go to the south of France, which is called Provence, which is a different mesorah, it’s closer to the Spanish mesorah…..

What do they have? ספר המנהיג, not nine hundred years ago, only eight hundred years ago, but still, old. מנהג בצרפת ובפרובינצא לכנוס מל”ג לעומר ואילך וזהו ל”ג לעומר. He calls it lag la’omer. He doesn’t know Hebrew? He doesn’t know that we call it lag ba’omer? No, he doesn’t. He calls it lag la-omer.

3) Let’s move on, we went in the South, let’s go over to Italy. שבלי הלקט. That’s even younger, only seven hundred fifty years ago. ברכת העומר זו היא, this is the brocho of birkas haomer. ברוך אתה ה’ אמ”ה אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על ספירת העומר. היום לעומר יום אחד

La’omer. Again in trouble.

4) Okay, let’s proceed around southern Europe and we go to Spain, we have a very, very powerful representative, the רשב”א, in a teshuvah. What does he say? לאמר היום עשרה ימים לעומר. And again, in a different teshuvoh, שאלת בברכת ספירת העומר….היום כך וכך לעומר.

5) And, even in northern Africa, the ריב”ש – he says, חג השבועות ידוע ליום חמישים לעומר.

And I can go on and on counting all kinds of other ראשונים who give it clearly as la-omer. So, the Chassidim are not necessarily wrong, nor are the Yekkes. I’m not saying that the Litvakes are wrong, חס ושלום. We’ll soon see.


6) Ba’omer we find in the minhogim of Rav Isaac Tirnau, which was written some six hundred fifty years ago. He says מברכים מעומד אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על ספירת העומר…..היום יום אחד בעומר . That’s why the Hungarians, Austrians, Austro-Hungarians say it that way. Ba’omer. With a beis. But he himself, this mechaber, sometimes has it with a beis, sometimes he has with a lamed. In his hagohos (מח) he tells a story in the course of which he states כ”ד לעומר היה מילה…. He doesn’t call it ba’omer. So that is slightly inconsistent. Because probably in his time they were not so מקפיד if you’re saying baomer or laomer.


As we saw already, not only the ספירה is counted by most ראשונים with a lamed, also the day of of Lag Ba’omer is being called so by the vast majority, as ל”ג לעומר. But I want to tell you that there is something very interesting about this. Hardly any of these ראשונים, or none of them, almost none of them had the nusach of counting in the exact form we have it in now. Nowadays, we say for example, היום שלשה עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד וששה ימים לעומר. That’s how we say it. Or בעומר. Sephardim would say היום שלשה עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד לעומר וששה ימים. But they all drop in the word לעומר. La’omer, ba’omer. We drop it in, into the counting, not just in the ברכה. In the brocho obviously we say בא”י אמ”ה אק”ב וצונו על ספירת העומר. But we repeat and we mention the word עומר again in the counting. Although logically it’s not necessary, because I’m saying now (in the brocho) I am going to now count the Omer. Then when I go on to do the actual counting, fifteen, sixteen…. I don’t have to re-explain what I have done, what the numbers of days are related to.

After having said that, we understand why, in the very strong representatives of the Rishonim, we don’t find the word עומר at all (in the actual counting). Let’s look at some illustrations of this.

1) The ראבי”ה, one of the giants of אשכנז, eight hundred years ago – הכי מברך על ספירת העומר – שהיום שבוע אחד ויום אחד.

2) The אור זרוע, same period – הכי מברך על ספירת העומר שהם שבוע אחד ויום אחד. No la’omer (or ba’omer) in the counting.

3) The טור, what does he say? ביום שמונה יאמר היום שמונה ימים שהם שבוע אחד ויום אחד. Silence. There’s no ‘omer’.

4) The מהרי”ל. The great authority on minhogei Ashkenaz – מברך עמהם בקול רם בא”י אמ”ה אק”ב וצונו על ספירת העומר שהיום יום אחד. That’s it. No la’omer.

5) לקט יושר – the talmid of the תרומת הדשן records his minhogim. This Austrian sefer says אומר ספירת העומר – היום שבעה ימים שהם שבוע אחד.

6) ספר האגור – An Italian sefer, Ashkenazi Italian. The same thing – מברך ….היום יום אחד עד שמגיע לשבעה ימים ואומר היום שבעה ימים שהם שבוע אחד. And again, ביום שמונה יאמר היום שמונה ימים שהם שבוע אחד ויום אחד. There’s no difference between Sefardim and Ashkenazim here –  the word omer is not mentioned in the counting at all. No la’omer, no ba’omer. נישט קיין ליטוואק, נישט קיין חסיד. Gornisht mit gornisht. נישט קיין שטריימעל, נישט קיין פראק, there’s nothing there, nothing to argue about. There is no word עומר in the text of the counting.


So where does this word come in, in our way of counting today? I’m sure if one of us in our days would count and leave out the word עומר, (people would think) you have to repeat the sefirah, avader, you didn’t say it properly, you were משנה ממטבע שטבעו חכמים, after all, the chachomim were mesakein this nusach, right? But no, it was not set down originally in that exact form. So how did it come to us? Where? Who’s responsible for it? It spread to Klal Yisroel. ספרדים say it this way, in the middle of the sefirah, אשכנזים at the end, then they start arguing if it’s לעומר or בעומר. Who’s responsible for all this?

One great man, which we mentioned before, he is called רב שלמה בן אדרת, the רשב”א. He is the father of it. What does he say? He has the following short teshuvoh (תשובות הרשב”א, סימן תנ”ז), and he says – שאלת בברכת ספירת העומר, you asked me regarding the brocho of sefiras ha’omer, if one has to say היום כך וכך לעומר or just היום כך וכך, without the word לעומר. Some Spanish Jew turned to the Rashba and asked him should we add la’omer or not? תשובה – הכל אחד – it doesn’t make any difference. It’s all right. Whatever you do is right. אבל יותר ראוי לומר כך וכך לעומר, כדי לבאר יותר – it is more fitting to say la’omer, to make it even more clear. Clarity – that is the point of רשב”א. The sefirah is there. Counting is there. But clarity is there only if you add omer, so says the Rashba.

Now this רשב”א seems to have become accepted. We find רבינו ירוחם, who lived outside Spain, in Provence, a generation later, he brings – it’s not quite clear if he attributes it to the אשכול or he says his own words – but he says וצריך לאדכורי עומר במנין. And you have to, tzorich…….. It’s not like the רשב”א, who says whatever you do is all right, but it’s more clear to say la’omer. He says tzorich, one has to. And then on the seventh day he says היום שבעה ימים לעומר שהם שבוע אחד. That’s the Sefardishe nusach that we mentioned before. What’s the sevara? He says אם לא נזכיר לעומר לא נראה שנספרים מהעומר כמו שנראה כשמזכירים אותו. He says it doesn’t seem so much as if you’re counting the omer, it’s not on the same level as when you mention la’omer. Coming back to the same sevara of רשב”א, but makes it a bit stronger.

What is the final halocho in this? Let’s have a look in the משנה ברורה. The Mishna Berurah says לרוב פוסקים הנוסח לעומר, מיהו עיקר הדבר הזה אינו אלא לכתחלה וכדי לבאר שהוא מונה מיום שהקריבו את העומר והלאה ואם לא אמר אלא היום כך וכך נמי יצא. The משנה ברורה says that if a Yid nebach mir האט פארגעסען, he forgot, גארניט געשען, biseder. True, the רשב”א, רבינו ירוחם and others say what they say, but מעיקר הדין this is kosher as well. Now I want to come back to the subject of which is more correct, if we already count according to the recommendation of the רשב”א, that we want to have clarity. What makes it more clear, la’omer or ba’omer? That’s a big discussion. A velt’s (world) מחלוקת. As we saw, most ראשונים have it (as) לעומר. But we can find others we say בעומר. Where does this argument come into our life and why does it have nothing to do with Chassidim and Misnagdim?


There is a ט”ז, he is perhaps the very first one to make a big issue if it’s ba’omer or la’omer. The Taz says, referring to the wording in the printed שולחן ערוך which he had in front of him, it says in Shulchan Oruch, hayom yom echad ba’omer and it’s put in  parentheses, בעומר. It’s not clear what the real נוסח is, but he saw in front of him, in his Shulchan Aruch, בעומר with a beis. And he’s very happy about it. He says yes, כן מנהגינו, to say ba’omer, his minhog, of the Taz, in Lublin, was to say בעומר. Ah, but he has a problem. He found the ר”ן, in the end of פסחים, and the בית יוסף quotes him, and there it says לעומר, so what do we do? The Shulchan Oruch says ba’omer, the Ran says la’omer…so he has to be machria, he is a poseik. So what does he do? So he says, נראה יותר נכון מנהגינו, our minhog is better. Why? Why is our minhog better? Now it’s a bit of a linguistic issue. דהא ביום אחד שמנינן בתחלת ליל י”ו – on the first day, the first count, what do we express by saying hayom yom echad ba’ or la’omer? We are referring to the count of the days for the omer, which they bring on the next morning. The עומר hasn’t been bought yet. It’s only the next morning that it will be brought. So when we say היום יום אחד לעומר, we are referring to the קרבן of the next morning. So we are counting to the days he says, not to the actual omer. We are counting to the days. This is the first day of the omer korban period and the counting of it. And ליום אחרים, later on in the counting, that way is also better because you are also counting to the days. And if you say la’omer, it does not refer to the days, it refers to a korban, so he claims. בעומר, however, refers to the days.

I’ll try to sharpen his point. We say שיר של יום every day. How do we say it? In all the nuschaos. We say היום יום שני Be-Shabbos. So that is a count of the day, be’. If we open a kesubah, or a get, רחמנא ליצלן. What do we find there? We all stand, when we come to a chupah, we come to listen to kerias hakesubah. So how does it start? ברביעי be-Shabbos. Again, if he counts the days, then he counts with a ב. But here we have a little bump in the way. When you continue, ברביעי בשבת, חמשה  le-chodesh Adar. Le-chodesh, with a ל. So it’s not consistent. So the ב”ח has an explanation why the first be’revi’i bishabbos is with a ב, the lamed of a chodesh with a ל, davka the chodesh. I’m not going to confuse you with it now, because it is quite complicated. I want to go back to the ט”ז. But the Taz is of the opinion that be- is counting the days, be-, like we say the 12th May, the th is in the day of the month. But to him the be- is in the day of the month, or the day of the week, or days which are counted in this context. But he says if you say le-, in his opinion, le- is referring to the קרבן. So meileh, he says all the other days until שבועות, and you count from the action of bringing the korban, that’s how we arrived. But the first day, when you haven’t brought the korban yet, how can you say from the korban? ל, la-omer to him means counting from the korban.

חק יעקב, אריז”ל, של”ה בעד לעומר

So why do so many people not obey the ט”ז? There’s no explanation without the ב?

There’s a חק יעקב on the spot. He argues. He says it’s not the way you think it is. And he says… בענין נוסח בעומר, which the רב – the Rav means the בית יוסף… – and the ט”ז had, and the Taz goes on how important it is to say דווקא ba’omer and not laomer, I have a problem with that. רוב נוסחאות ישנים, most old nuschaos, in fact the ancient ones, all of them, כתבו שיש לומר לעומר, wrote that one should say la-omer. וכן, he starts counting Rishonim, I didn’t count them all before, because I said we had enough, כל בו which is Provencal, תניא, which is Italian, שבלי הלקט, Rokeach is אשכנז, Teshuvos הרשב”א we heard before, בית יוסף…..they all said לעומר. They didn’t know what the ט”ז knew? With all due respect, they were all ראשונים. They knew something about דקדוק. So they say it can’t be. So מיר דארף צוברעכען די קאפ (one has to break their head), to understand their מהלך (approach). What was their מהלך? They also knew something. So he comes up with the following point. And he says, לעומר, is משמעות to the day, not as you said to the קרבן, and it’s counting the days. Le-, the omer. As I said, in נוסח הגט, נוסח הכתובה, we also have that ל is counting to the month. מה שאין כן, he goes all the way back, not only does he defend the לעומר, he goes on the offensive, he says no, if you say בעומר it’s wrong, because it’s משמע (implies) now,עכשיו, I am right there, by the קרבן, standing there, now it’s עומר. That would be good if you count in the morning of the first day. But what about on the other days? Not good any more. The קרבן is gone. You say ba’omer, but it’s not here anymore. And then he brings also that the של”ה says לעומר. Another thing, that is not mentioned there, is that the אריז”ל says לעומר. Arizal has a tremendous impact on people in later generations, especially in the Chassidic world. If the Arizal says la’omer, so all the Chassidim say la’omer. One Arizal can do more in Klal Yisroel than all the Rishonim together. Very interesting.


Anyway, we still have two minutes, so I want to come to another little issue. We found that some of the Rishonim say בא”י אמ”ה אק”ב וצונו על ספירת העומר שהיום so and so. We saw, we found in the ראבי”ה, and תשובה from the מהרי”ל. But not all of them. Most Rishonim don’t have it. But even if we follow the other ראשונים, we still have to understand the nusach with שהיום. And here again the ט”ז  says that’s wrong, and we, definitely, according to our logic, we would go with the Taz. And here’s what the ט”ז says. אין לומר שהיום – he doesn’t even have to explain why. I’m saying בא”י אמ”ה, I want to be mekayeim מצות ספירת העומר, because hayom (שהיום) so and so לעומר. This is the מצוה? This is explanation to the mitzvoh! And again the Chok Yaakov comes along and he stands up for the old nusach. He says הסכמת האחרונים שלא יאמר שהיום, however, באמת מי שאמר שהיום לא השתבש, we can’t say that it is wrong. יש לו על מי לסמוך, because we find, he cites a few Rishonim which have shehayom, Rokeach, Tanya, Maharil. And then he brings the others, and he says you know what the peshat is? The word of שהיום is an explanation for why we stand up now and do the מצוה. Why do we do it right now? Because shehayom, because today is this and that day, therefore there’s a חיוב on us to count – those are his words. שהיום נתינת טעם על מה דמברך עכשיו על ספירת עומר, לפי שהיום כך וכך ימים. Limayseh, he doesn’t advocate it, but he says that if somebody did it, he doesn’t have to repeat it. It’s kosher.


Now I will sum up what we said today. If you say לעומר you are saying the omer of the ראשונים. If you say בעומר you are saying the nusach of Rav Isaac Tirnau and the Taz, and it has been widely accepted by the Lithuanian siddur. It’s not Ashkenaz in the sense of (German) Ashkenaz, which says לעומר. But if you don’t say it (the word עומר in the counting), it’s absolutely kosher, because as we said it’s only a special additional clarity, which the רשב”א  added for us to express ourselves with.

May we be zoche, בעזרת השי”ת, to במהרה be makriv the עומר, to have the omer itself and not just the ספירה, and then all the sefeikos will vanish…