Friday, April 9, 2010

MINHAGUIM OF SEFIRAT HAOMER: Today is the 10th day of Omer (1 week, 3 days)

25th of Nisan, 5770

From the end of Pesach until the 33rd day of the Omer we have the tradition of keeping certain customs of mourning, in memory of the twenty four thousand students of rabbi Akiva who died in that period of time in the years 130 ACE.

The following is the summary of the Minhagim and traditions that are followed in the Mashadi community.

1. Weddings or engagements are not allowed during the days of the Sefira, but in our community it’s customary to allow an engagement (Namzadi) to take place during Rosh Chodesh Iyar .

2. The first day to allow the performance of a wedding, according to the Sephardic Minhag, is on the 34th day of the Omer while in the Ashkenazi Minhag is on the 33rd.

3. Men are not allowed to get a haircut during the days of the Sefira until the 34th day of the Omer. Women are not subject to any restriction regarding their hair.

4. In our community it is customary not to wear any new clothing for which one would regularly say the Berakha Shehecheyanu. Since this custom is not mentioned in the Shulchan Arukh there is some leniency to it. For example: If a specific new garment will not be available after the Omer or if the price will increase after Lag baOmer it is permitted to acquire the new clothing. If the new clothing is much needed it can be worn on Shabbat for the first time, saying Shehecheyanu for it. Buying new clothing for a wedding is permitted, for the bride the groom and their immediate family. Buying new clothing for a Brit Milah is also permitted for the family.

5. Buying a new house is permitted, but if possible, one should move into it only after Lag baOmer. If one does not have a house or an office he can move into the new property even before Lag baOmer. It is not forbidden to make a contract or closing a house during these days.

6. During these days one should avoid listen to live music and/or going to a movie theater.

7. In our community the celebration of Yom haAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the re-establishment of the State of Israel overrides the mourning restrictions of the Omer period, thus we celebrate that day with joyous prayers, banquettes, dancing and music.

It is important to notice that all the restrictions we follow in the days of Omer are not associated with any superstitious notions of bad luck or bad Mazal. These Minhaguim are related exclusively to the mourning we keep, honoring the memory of the students of rabbi Akiva.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

SEFIRAT HAOMER. Today is the 9th day of the Omer (1 week, 2 days)

24th of Nisan 5770

The days of the Omer need to be counted at night. As you already probably know, for us the new day starts at night. Like Shabbat which starts Friday night. At what precise time the new day starts is a controversial complicated technical Halakhic matter. But very briefly: there are two possible astronomic indicators for the new day 1. Sunset. 2. The appearance of stars in the dark sky. All Rabbis agree that before sunset it is still considered day # 1 and after the stars are visible it is considered day #2. The time in between sunset and the stars (twilight zone or ben hashemashot) fluctuates between 15 min (13 ½ to be precise!) to 30 minutes or more depending on many variables (geographic location, year’s season and other Halakhic considerations). Regarding Shabbat, for example, we take the stringiest stand: we receive Shabbat before sunset and we end Shabbat the next day, after the stars are visible.

Regarding the counting of the Omer, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Hayim SHELITA the starting time to count the Omer will be 13 ½ minutes after sunset. For a Minyan one cold be more lenient but never before sunset.

Children, although formally exempt from the Mitzvah of counting the days of the Omer until Bar or Bat Mitzva, should be encouraged to count every night including the recitation of the berakha , because the rules of berakha lebatala (saying a formal blessing unnecessarily) does not apply for children.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

SEFIRAT HAOMER. Today is the 8th day of the Omer (1 week and 1 day)

23rd of Nisan, 5770

From the second day of Pesach we start counting 49 days and 7 weeks until the Holiday of Shavuot.
In Pesach we celebrate our physical and political freedom from Egyptian captivity. On Shavout we commemorate the giving of the Torah and our covenant (berit) with the Almighty celebrated at Mount Sinai. The counting of the Omer connects between these two important events teaching us that our political freedom served a purpose as a mean to our cultural and religious freedom. From the other side, without been unbound from the Egyptian captivity we would have never been able to freely choose to commit ourselves to the worship God Almighty.
The counting of these 49 days takes place at night and it is preceded by a blessing: Baruch Ata… Asher Kideshanu beMitzvotav veTzivanu al Sefirat haOmer. Then we proceed to count the day and the week.
Women are exempt from the counting of the Omer, but they can still do it without pronouncing the Berakha.
If one forgets to count the day at night, he could count during the next day until sunset but without reciting the blessing that day. If one forgets to count one day completely, then he can count during the following days but does not say the blessing anymore.

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