Chapter: Zemanim

1 – The Jewish Month

HaKadosh Baruch Hu created luminaries – the sun and the moon – and placed them in the heavens. They are the means by which we establish the order of time. The sun shines during the day, the moon at night. … Continue reading

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2 – The Authority to Fix the Months was Entrusted to Israel

A new month does not automatically begin when the moon reappears. Rather, the judges of the Beit Din sanctify the month, as it says, “This month shall be for you” (Shemot, 12:2). HaShem showed Moshe Rabbeinu the configuration of the … Continue reading

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3 – The History of the Sanctification of the Moon

As a result of Roman persecution, the Jewish settlement in the Holy Land dwindled during the Talmudic period, while the larger community of Jews became ensconsed in Babylonia advanced in all areas. Nonetheless, the Sages of Eretz Yisrael retained the … Continue reading

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4 – Rosh Chodesh – One Day or Two?

When a month is incomplete (29 days), the following Rosh Chodesh is one day. When it is full (30 days), the following Rosh Chodesh lasts two days, the first day being the thirtieth of the previous month, and the second … Continue reading

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5 – The Status of Rosh Chodesh in the Torah

The Torah lists Rosh Chodesh together with all the other holidays on which we offer additional sacrifices (Musafim) in honor of the day’s sanctity. Chazal derive from a verse in Eichah(1:15) that Rosh Chodesh is also called mo’ed (an appointed … Continue reading

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6 – Festive Meals on Rosh Chodesh and the Prohibition to Fast or Grieve

Rosh Chodesh is among the holidays on which it is appropriate to rejoice. However, there is no explicit commandment to rejoice on Rosh Chodesh by partaking in festive meals. While it is meritorious to have special meals on the day, … Continue reading

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7 – The Custom of Women Refraining from Work on Rosh Chodesh

It is permissible to do work on Rosh Chodesh. Ideally, though, one should not work on Rosh Chodesh, similar to the law regarding Chol HaMo’ed. The holier the day, the more it is designated for spiritual endeavors, and the more … Continue reading

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8 – Shabbat Mevarchim (Blessing the New Month)

On the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh, the custom is to announce the day or days on which the new month will fall, and to pray that “HaKadosh Baruch Hu renew it for us and all of Israel for goodness and … Continue reading

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9 – A Time of Atonement and Yom Kippur Katan

Rosh Chodesh is a time of atonement, as we say in the Musaf prayer, “A time of atonement for all [the Jewish people’s] offspring.” In addition, when the Temple stood, a he-goat would be sacrificed as a sin offering. In … Continue reading

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10 – Ya’aleh VeYavo in Shemoneh Esrei

The unique nature of Rosh Chodesh finds expression in our prayers. After all, Chazal instituted our prayers in place of the sacrifices, and the Torah commands us to offer a musaf sacrifice on Rosh Chodesh. Therefore, the Rabbis prescribed that … Continue reading

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12 – Hallel on Rosh Chodesh

There is a widespread custom to recite Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. Indeed, according to the letter of the law, there is no obligation to do so, because Hallel is required only on days that are called mo’ed (appointed times), and … Continue reading

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11 -Ya’aleh VeYavo in Grace After Meals

One must say Ya’aleh VeYavo in Birkat HaMazone (Grace after Meals), as well. Even though one is not obligated to eat a meal on Rosh Chodesh, one must mention it when reciting Birkat HaMazone because of the importance of the … Continue reading

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13 – Customs Relating to the Recital of Hallel

One must stand while reciting the Hallel, because Hallel is a testimony to God’s glory, and witnesses must stand while testifying. After the fact, if one said Hallel sitting or lying down, he has nonetheless fulfilled his obligation. Someone who … Continue reading

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14 – The Torah Reading and Musaf Service

In honor of Rosh Chodesh we call up four people to the Torah. The reading begins with the daily burnt offering and ends with the special Rosh Chodesh sacrifices (Bamidbar, 28:1-15). This hints to the fact that the special sanctity … Continue reading

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15 – The Meaning Behind the Blessing of the Moon

In the Blessing of the Moon (Birkat HaLevanah), we thank Hashem for creating the moon, and for the benefit we receive from its light. Many attach special honor to this blessing, because it alludes to deep concepts concerning the Jewish … Continue reading

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16 – The Laws of Reciting the Blessing Joyously

Because of the exalted themes behind the moon’s renewal, the person who recites the Blessing of the Moon is considered as one who receives God’s Presence (the Shechinah). Thus, Tanna D’vei Rebbi Yishmael states, “Had the Jews been privileged to … Continue reading

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17 – Seeing the New Moon

We recite the blessing over the new moon at night, because that is when it is clearly visible and one can benefit from its light. One may not recite the blessing if he sees the moon at twilight, because the … Continue reading

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18 – The Proper Time for Birkat HaLevanah

Many Rishonim hold that the time for Birkat HaLevanah starts on the first day that the moon is visible, and that the earlier one says the blessing the better (Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 10:17; Rosh; and others). Several poskim, however, maintain … Continue reading

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1 – The Mitzvah and its Meaning

Starting from the night of the Omer harvest, there is a mitzvah to count forty-nine days, which are seven weeks.  The Omer is harvested on the sixteenth of Nissan, which coincides with the night after the first day of Pesach.  … Continue reading

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2 – The Process of Ascension from Nationalism to Spirituality

By counting the Omer, we draw a line that continuously ascends from Pesach to Shavu’ot.  The holiday of Pesach represents Israel’s national side, for the Exodus from Egypt revealed Israel’s uniqueness, in that HaShem chose us from among all the … Continue reading

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3 – The Mechanics of Counting

Before counting the Omer, one recites the following blessing: “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding the counting of the Omer.”  Both the blessing and … Continue reading

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4 – The Status of the Mitzvah after the Temple’s Destruction

A fundamental question regarding the Omer count is whether the mitzvah is Biblical or Rabbinic ever since the Holy Temple was destroyed.  The verse says, You shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the “Sabbath” – from the day … Continue reading

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5 – When to Count

The Omer count begins on the night of the sixteenth of Nissan, as it says, You shall count for yourself seven weeks; from when the sickle begins [to cut] the standing crop shall you begin to count seven weeks (Devarim … Continue reading

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6 – Until When Can One Count?

One who is accustomed to praying Ma’ariv at a late hour all year round, should [nonetheless] count after his regular prayer service.  If he counts by himself at the beginning of the night, he is liable to make a mistake … Continue reading

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7 – One Who forgets to Count an Entire Day

The Rishonim debate [the nature of] the Omer count.  According to the Behag, it is one long mitzvah stretching from Pesach to Shavu’ot, as it says, Seven weeks; they shall be complete (VaYikra 23:15).  Therefore, one who forgets to count … Continue reading

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8 – When in Doubt, Continue Counting with a Blessing

One who is unsure whether he neglected to count one day may continue counting with a blessing, because we worry about the opinion that says that one cannot continue counting with a blessing only when one is certain that he … Continue reading

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9 – Women and the Omer Count

Based on the famous rule that women are exempt from all time-bound mitzvot, women are exempt from the mitzvah of counting the Omer, for it is dependant on time (see Peninei Halachah, Tefillat Nashim, chap. 3, for the logic behind … Continue reading

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10 – Specific Laws Regarding the Mitzvah of Counting

If someone asks his friend, at a time when it is permissible to count, “What is today’s Omer count?” the friend should not answer, “Today is day such-and-such in the Omer,” unless he has already counted with a blessing.  After … Continue reading

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1 – The Reason for These Customs

The days between Pesach and Shavu’ot are days of sorrow, because 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died then. Therefore, we keep some of the customs of mourning during this period, postponing marriages, refraining from taking haircuts, and avoiding dancing, unless … Continue reading

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2 – The Duration of the Mourning Period

There are many customs as to when the mourning period begins and ends. We will mention the four primary ones: 1) The laws of mourning last the entire Omer period. This custom is based on the version of the Gemara … Continue reading

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3 – The Sefardi Practice

According to the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 493:1-2), the customs of mourning begin on the first day of the Omer and last until the morning of the thirty-fourth. This is based on the tradition that reads the Gemara: “R. Akiva’s students … Continue reading

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4 – The Ashkenazi Practice

The prevalent custom among Ashkenazi Jews today in Eretz Yisrael combines several traditions. Most expressions of mourning last until Lag B’Omer, while some continue afterwards. This is based on the tradition that although the plague ended on Lag B’Omer, those … Continue reading

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5 – Weddings and Engagements During the Omer Peeriod

After having discussed the duration of the mourning period, we will now delineate the laws of the various customs in detail. The Ga’onim write that ever since Rabbi Akiva’s students died in the period between Pesach and Shavu’ot, the Jewish … Continue reading

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6 – Haircuts

The Rishonim write that one should not take a haircut during the Omer period. As we learned above (sec. 3-4), Sefardim observe this prohibition until the morning of the thirty-fourth day of the Omer. Ashkenazim, on the other hand, keep … Continue reading

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7 – Shaving

A question arises regarding the issue of shaving during the Omer period. Is one who shaves [regularly] throughout the year allowed to shave during Sefirah? Many authorities maintain that shaving is included in [the prohibition of] taking haircuts and whenever … Continue reading

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8 – Dancing and Musical Instruments

Since the custom is not to celebrate too much during the Omer period, the Acharonim write that one is forbidden to engage in optional dancing [as opposed to dancing for the sake of a mitzvah] (M.A. 493:1). They also forbid … Continue reading

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9 – Circumcisions, Torah Processions, and Bar Mitzvahs

It is permissible to make a festive meal for the sake of a mitzvah. This includes singing and dancing at the meal, to the degree that is acceptable throughout the year. For example, one may prepare a festive meal for … Continue reading

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10 – Listening to Music on Electronic Devices

Many poskim hold that there is no difference between listening to live music and listening to music on the radio, or by way of any other electronic device; both are forbidden during Sefirah (until Lag B’Omer) and the Three Weeks. … Continue reading

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11 – SheHechiyanu

During the Omer period, one is permitted to buy a new fruit, garment, or piece of furniture and recite the SheHechiyanu blessing over it. True, after the Crusades and the horrific massacres that the Christians carried out during the Omer … Continue reading

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12 – Brief Summary of the Joyous Days of the Omer Period

None of the customs of mourning are practiced on Chol HaMo’ed Pesach, because one is commanded to rejoice on these days, as we explained above, in sec. 8, regarding music. According to some poskim, one may take a haircut on … Continue reading

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