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Ask the rabbi Shabbat and Holidays Sfirat Ha'omer Customs

Minhagim of Sefirat Ha’Omer

Question
For the past 48 years I have observed the minhagim of sefirat HaOmer from the beginning of Pesach through Lag B’Omer. I have heard that this is just a minhag and one can change their dates of observing Sefira (no shaving and no haircuts) each year. In other words, observe Sefira restrictions from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Rosh Chodesh Sivan. First- is this correct? Second- if this is correct what would the basis of changing one’s minhag each year and does there have to be a justifiable reason to switch? Thank you and kol tuv
Answer
ב"ה Shalom First, a word about minhag. The issue of minhagim is a comprehensive one and cannot be covered within the framework of this forum. Any change of minhag is to be examined individually, though fundamentally the issue of minhag is not as severe as a mitzvah in the torah, e.g.the way someone winds his Tefillin on his fingers is not the same as the essential of mitzvah of putting on Tefillin. Though, changing a minhag sometimes involves the issue of hatarat nedarim and kibud av va'em. Also different customs carry different weight. Everyone understands, for example, that the custom of eating latkes on Chanuka does not carry the same weight of deciding to wait 3 hours after meat before having milk instead of 6 hours. Having said that, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l holds that in regard to changing the minhag of which days a person doesn’t shave or take a haircut during the Omer, a person may change his minhag of which dates he observes, since the essential minhag is not to shave or take a haircut for 33 days. (אגרות משה אור"ח חלק א סי' קנט, חלק ב סימן צה ). However, one cannot hold two conflicting minhagim in which he will take advantage of all the dates on which one may shave, nor may he change in the middle.(see also משנה ברורה תצג ס"ק יד , ביאור הלכה ד"ה יש נוהגים). Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l in the above Teshuva allowed switching for the sake of appearing shaven at a wedding on a date which was contrary to his minhag. All the best
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