Ba’Omer or La’Omer

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

For the Mitzvah of counting the Omer we first recite the Beracha- “Asher Ki’deshanu Be’mitzvotav….” As we do before any Mitzvah we are about to perform, and then do the Mitzvah of counting.

The Mechaber writes [Orach Chaim 489:1] that on the first night we recite “HaYom Yom Echad”. On the seventh night we add the week, so the recitation goes, “HaYom Shiva Yamim She’heim Shavu’a Echad” In both examples he does not mention the word “Omer” at all. It is the Rama [R’ Moshe Isserles] who adds the word “Ba’ Omer”.

The Mishnah Berurah comments [note 8] that most authorities recite the word “La’Omer”, as does the Ari”e and the Shlah. The Taz agrees with the Rama and uses the word Ba’Omer. The fact of the matter is, that the entire addition of the phrase Ba’Omer or La’Omer is only LeChat’chila, as a Hidur [beautification] of the Mitzvah but BeDi’eved one fulfills the requirement of counting without mentioning either phrase. And that is how the Mechaber holds.

What is the basic difference between “Ba’Omer” and “La’Omer”? Rav Soloveitchik said that the word “Ba’Omer” reflects the connotation that Sefirah is Min HaTorah even today, [which is Shitat HaRambam], and the present period is thus even today called the Omer period. However, “La’Omer” implies that the mechayav [requirement] of Sefirah is the Korban Ha’Omer, which does not pertain today, and thus we use a Lamed, as we count from the time of the Korban Ha’Omer.

Not withstanding the difference, how should one conduct himself when counting the Omer? The Rav suggested that we recite BOTH expressions, [toch kedei dibbur]. In Yeshivat Brisk of Chicago, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik also had the Shali’ach Tzibbur recite both.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

3 comments

  1. I believe R’ Schachter adds that it is appropriate to follow the Rav’s practice, saying “Ba-Omer” first and “La-Omer” second, as the Harachaman said right afterwards asks Hashem to restore the Avoda of the Mikdash- so it’s fitting that we say “La-Omer” right before it, as a prayer, so to speak, that we bring the Omer soon.

    • I am not a poseiq, never mind a bar pelugta of RYBS or RHS, but…

      In the internet age, we have too many people relying on rumor and personal opinion rather than informed decision-making. Including a reduction in questions being asked of poseiq.

      In the case of halakahh, this builds atop a trend that was already going reflected in (and also causing) the huge number of popularizations of halakhah written as guides.

      I don’t think we need more second-guessing of the halachic process. Which is what many of these Brisker chumeros, and for that matter minhagei haGra, boils down to.

      For example, we have a mesorah that the word in parashas Zakhos is “zeikher”, “with 5 dots” (tzeirei-segol). This dates back to before Ben Asher, but include Ben Asher and thus also the Rambam. We had a pesaq.

      Now we’re saying both. But does it not imply that we lack confidence in the halachic process?

      Similarly, Ashkazim traditionally said “ba’omer”. Sepharadim said “la’omer”, at least since Tzefas. (And the SA and Yalqut Yoseif calls it “Lag laOmer”.) And because it’s Tzefas, some Chassidim switched too.

      But there is a centuries old Ashkenazi pesaq. Why doesn’t that matter? Why would we be treating the machloqes like it’s still open?

      Besides, neither is a problem with being yotzei according to anyone. For that matter, you don’t even need the last word altogether. The issue is preferred text, not necessary text.

      It’s a low risk situation to just pick one and sticking with it.

      • I agree with you. I think the whole premise of being Yotzei according to all Shitos is part of the same phenomenon. It doesn’t seem this was the way Judaism was practiced until relatively recently, probably after the printing press allowed for Seforim from different locales to be available to a much wider audience.

        As for the specific case of Zeicher, I agree 100%. We don’t have any doubt as to the Mesorah. It’s not even a question of stress, as either way it’s Mi’le’ail. The whole question probably started based on the different pronunciations of the Tzeirei, similar to the (modern) Sephardic pronunciation of a T’nuah Gedolah more like its T’nuah Ketanah.

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