Peninei Halakha

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 died until P’ros HaAtzeret,” meaning fifteen days before Shavu’ot. This implies that we must continue mourning until the 34th day of the Omer. However, [the halachah determines] regarding the seven-day mourning period [for a close relative] that part of a day is [considered] like a whole day. Therefore, when a mourner sits on the ground for a short time at the beginning of the seventh day, he effectively completes that day and may terminate his mourning. The same applies to the mourning of the Omer period, and one need not wait until the end of the 34th day. Rather, all customs of mourning become null and void a few moments after daybreak on the morning of the thirty-fourth, because part of a day is [considered] like a whole day.
Actually, one is permitted to sing, play music, and dance on Lag B’Omer, in honor of the anniversary of R. Shimon bar Yochai’s death. However, the other customs of mourning remain binding. Thus, according to this practice, one is forbidden to get married or take a haircut on Lag B’Omer, and when the day ends, it is forbidden to play music or dance on the night of the thirty-fourth. When morning comes, however, all practices of mourning are nullified. (Those who follow the Ari’s customs act strictly and refrain from taking haircuts until the day before Shavu’ot – K.H.C. 493:13.)
Some Sefardi communities – like those from Turkey and Egypt – end all customs of mourning on Lag B’Omer. And even though most Sefardim in Israel today do not follow this practice, if there is a great need to act leniently on Lag B’Omer or the night of the thirty-fourth, there is room to present the question before a wise Torah scholar. 1 writes in this vein in Yabi’a Omer 5:38. [This leniency applies] especially to those who come from countries where the custom is to act leniently on Lag B’Omer, like Turkey. (On the night of the thirty-fourth, one can also figure in the Ramban’s opinion, that part of the night is considered like its entirety. See below, note 5.) According to Radvaz and Pri Chadash, one who has yet to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation need not avoid getting married during this period. The Jews of Yemen followed such a custom (Sh’tilei Zeitim 493:4, Maharitz 2:111). In practice, though, we do not act leniently on this issue, unless circumstances are pressing, [and even then, only] in accordance with the ruling of a wise scholar. (Even Yemenite Jews act strictly; see Shulchan Aruch HaMekutzar 92:7.) ]

  1. The Sefardi custom is elucidated in Shulchan Aruch (493:1-2), and we explained its foundations in the previous halachah (the third custom), based on the version that reads “P’ros HaAtzeret,” which means the thirty-fourth. However, several Sefardic poskim hold that the customs of mourning end on Lag B’Omer. Maharicas and R. Ya’akov Rakach write in this vein, and Maharicas explains in Erech Lechem that P’ros does not necessarily mean exactly half-a-month. The author of Shiyurei K’nesset HaGedolah (Hagahot B.Y. 493:3) writes that in and around Kushta the custom is to make weddings on Lag B’Omer. Pri Chadash, Nahar Mitzrayim, and others rule similarly. However, the prevalent custom follows the Shulchan Aruch’s opinion. This can be found in Yechaveh Da’at (3:31) and Yabi’a Omer (vol. 3, O.C. 26:4). Nonetheless, in pressing situations, and when there is potential for loss, there is room to be lenient, in accordance with the ruling of a wise Torah scholar. [R. Ovadyah Yosef

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