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Does Acknowledging Lag Ba’omer Count as Counting?

If one mentions, before counting omer, that “Tonight is Lag Ba’omer”, can he subsequently count with a beracha?


Rabbi Daniel Mann

Question: If one mentions, before counting omer, that "Tonight is Lag Ba’omer" (= the statement), can he subsequently count with a beracha?

Answer: This is one of the cases where we prefer to not have fulfilled a mitzva, so that we can perform it properly with a beracha. While the statement includes the basic elements needed to fulfill the mitzva of sefirat ha’omer, it may not do so for a few reasons.

First, there is an unresolved machloket whether gematria, which is a secondary but accepted way of expressing numbers, is valid for sefirat ha’omer (see Sha’arei Teshuva 489:6; see applications in Living the Halachic Process, I:D-19). The statement (Lag) is thus questionable for fulfilling the mitzva.

Second, the weeks are not mentioned. Acharonim debate whether one who has mentioned only days, after day seven, has completed his mitzva. The matter relates to Ameimar’s opinion (Menachot 66a) that there is no need to count weeks at a time that there is no Beit Hamikdash in which to offer the korban omer. The Mishna Berura (489:7) concludes that one who says just the days should count again, but this ruling lacks the level of certainty to justify a new beracha (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 489:9). (According to Eliya Rabba (489:14), the full force of missing weeks applies only on days when the number of weeks changes – e.g., 28, 35).

The strongest reason to disregard the statement’s impact is that it is almost certainly said while not having in mind to fulfill the mitzva of sefirat ha’omer. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 60:4) rules that one does not fulfill a mitzva without intent to do so, and therefore the statement should not prevent one from counting afterwards with a beracha. However, the following halacha in the Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:4) seems to contradict this. If one is asked before counting what day of the omer it is, he should answer what day yesterday was, for stating the current day compromises his ability to count later with a beracha. The Taz (489:7) says that the Shulchan Aruch must mean that avoiding saying the day’s count is just a stringency, but, due to the lack of intention, he would b’dieved count with a beracha later anyway. Yet many point out that the Taz’s claim does not fit the Shulchan Aruch’s language. The Magen Avraham (489:8) says that one would not make a beracha because of the opinion that intention is not critical, and some say that sefirat ha’omer is fulfilled without intention because it is only a Rabbinic obligation (see Yechaveh Da’at VI:29).

While each individual reason to allow counting with a beracha after the statement is arguable, the combination of reasons makes that prospect convincing in two possible ways. First, poskim (including Be’ur Halacha 489:4, Eliya Rabba ibid.) say, in different cases, that when there are specific indications that one intends to not fulfill the mitzva, he indeed does not fulfill it. In the standard case, when "Lag Ba’omer" is used as the name of a semi-holiday as opposed to the gematria of the count, the statement would be precluded from fulfillment of the mitzva, and a beracha could be made later (Kaf Hachayim 489:30). (Note that in gematria, we usually say "Lamed gimmel," not "Lag," and that halachic declarations are not supposed to be made in a mix of languages.) The Mishna Berura (489:22) says that we would accept the aforementioned Taz’s logic in cases in which the week should have been mentioned and was not. Second, the coinciding of factors may create enough doubts against the chance the mitzva was fulfilled to justify a beracha. Indeed, we find cases of beracha on sefirat ha’omer when s’feik s’feika indicates its appropriateness (Shulchan Aruch, OC 489:8; Mishna Berura 489:38). On the other hand, that halachic phenomenon likely does not apply to every set of doubts (see Yabia Omer IV, OC 43).

In short, it is unlikely that one has fulfilled sefirat ha’omer by noting the day is Lag Ba’omer. However, it is worthwhile to avoid such a statement before counting and, where easily feasible, to use someone else’s beracha if he did.
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