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 period, some rabbis in the Ashkenazi community began treating the mourning of the Omer period as strictly as that of Three Weeks. And just as we refrain from saying SheHechiyanu during the Three Weeks – because it is inappropriate to say, “Who has kept us alive… and brought us to this time,” during the period in which the Temple was destroyed – so too, it is inappropriate to say SheHechiyanu during a time in which holy Jews were murdered.
In practice, however, the accepted halachah is that there is no prohibition against saying SheHechiyanu during the Omer period, for these days are not comparable to the days between the 17th of Tammuz and Tish’a B’Av. Nonetheless, one who wishes to act stringently and refrain from buying clothing and furniture during this period deserves a blessing. If there is a [special] need, however, even such a person may act leniently. For example, someone who needs an article of clothing or a piece of furniture may buy it. Similarly, if someone comes upon an opportunity to buy one of these items at a reduced price, he may buy it. Those who follow the stricter custom should wear the garment for the first time, and recite the SheHechiyanu blessing over it, on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Yom HaAtzma’ut, or at a se’udat mitzvah. Likewise, if one buys a new piece of furniture, he should try to begin using it on these joyous days.
One is permitted to buy a house, and [even] move into it, during the days [of Sefirah], especially if the house is in the Land of Israel, and all the more so if it is located in an area devoid of Jews. For, anyone who buys a house in such a place fulfills the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz (Settling the Land of Israel) elaborately. Thus, if the buyer is single, he recites the SheHechiyanu blessing, and if he has a wife, they say HaTov VeHaMeitiv. 1 summarizes the various opinions. Some authorities forbid moving into a new house, because it is a very joyous occasion, similar to a wedding (Responsa Avnei Tzedek, Sighet, Y.D. 44). [R. Ovadyah] rules leniently in Yechaveh Da’at 3:30. See also Piskei Teshuvot 493:1-3, where the author cites authorities who rule strictly.
It is important to note that the days of the Omer have a joyous side, as well. Accordingly, the Ramban writes (in Parashat Emor) that they are like intermediary days (chol ha-mo’ed), extending from Pesach to Shavu’ot. However, they also have an aspect of tension and suspense, for a person needs to ascend during this period from one level to the next, until he reaches the pinnacle of Matan Torah (the Sinai Revelation). And when one fails to climb from one level to the next in the proper order, crises and misfortunes are liable to result, as happened throughout Jewish history. This is why we mourn during the Omer period. Nevertheless, the holiness of these days remains in place, and they are very conducive for spiritual growth and purification, in anticipation of Matan Torah and cleaving to God. ]
One is allowed to invite friends to a meal during the Omer, as long as no musical instruments are played. One may also take a trip or go hiking, because one must avoid only joyous endeavors, not pleasurable ones. And even though some [authorities] are strict about this, the halachah follows the more lenient opinion when it comes to these customs of mourning. Nevertheless, it is better not to schedule a school trip before Lag B’Omer, because such trips are very joyous. However, a school can – [even] le-chatchilah – schedule a trip that is defined as educational. 2
- In a volume called Leket Yosher, the author quotes his teacher, Mahara’i, the author of Terumat HaDeshen, as saying that one should avoid saying SheHechiyanu during Sefirah. Several other Rishonim and Acharonim write in a similar vein. However, many Acharonim reject this stringent custom, including the author of Ma’amar Mordechai (493:2) – quoted in M.B. 493:2 – and the author of K.H.C. 493:4. See Yabi’a Omer, O.C. 3:26, and Yechaveh Da’at 1:24, where [R. Ovadyah Yosef ↩
- See the volume Bein Pesach LeShavu’ot 15:10, 12, which cites the more lenient opinions. Also see Hilchot Chag B’Chag 7:11, where the author leans toward being strict, but brings the lenient opinion in a footnote. See below, 8.6, regarding trips during the Three Weeks. ↩