Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sefiras HaOmer / The Weeks Between Pesach and Shavuos


From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present,” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

According to Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender once stated that on the second night of Pesach in Uman, most Breslover Chassidim counted sefirah after the Seder. This seems to have been a regional minhag that is still followed in many Breslov circles in chutz la-aretz today. Reb Levi Yitzchak also mentioned that the legendary oved, Reb Getcheh of Uman, was accustomed to do so in shul with a minyan of bochurim, who had joined him for the Seder meal in the Beis haMedrash.
(Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 262. In support of this custom, see Rabbi Immanuel Chai Ricci, Mishnas Chassidim, Masechtas ha-Omer 1:1; Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Pano, Mayan Ganim, Seder shel Pesach, 35b; Siddur Tefilah Yesharah-Berditchev. The Chassidim of Karlin-Stolin count in shul be-tzibbur after the Seder. Others who count after the Seder include the communities of Chernobyl-Skver, Bobov, etc.)

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However, Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski disputed this. He discussed this subject in detail with Reb Levi Yitzchok, who despite what is printed in Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh told him that most Breslovers in Uman counted the sefirah in shul after Ma’ariv. This was also the practice of Reb Avraham Moshe’s father, Rabbi Zvi Yosef Wasilski, and his chaburah in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
(Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 489:1 mentions the more common practice of counting in the synagogue after Ma’ariv. Among Chassidim, see Kedushas Aharon [Komarno] in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, et al.)

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Reb Avraham Moshe asked Reb Levi Yitzchok if those who counted after the Seder did so be-tzibbur in shul, and he replied that they counted at home. As for the story about Reb Getcheh, Reb Avraham Moshe questioned the circumstances surrounding this incident, speculating that this may have been an exceptional occurance, when Reb Getcheh was in poor health.

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Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld and his talmidim in Brooklyn used to count after the Seder.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Kramer)

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EDITOR: Various schools of Kabbalah debate this issue. For example, the followers of the RaSHaSH (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) count the sefirah prior to the Seder, while the followers of Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzera count after the Seder.

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Nusach: Breslover Chassidim are accustomed to recite the "le-shem yichud" and then to count the sefirah, followed by the additional psalms and kabbalistic prayers found in most Nusach Sefard siddurim. The last tefilah relates each day of the sefirah period to a particular combination of sefiros (e.g., the first day corresponds to "chesed she-be-chesed," etc.).

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Reb Noson darshans on the custom to recite after counting the sefirah: “May it be Your will . . . that the Beis ha-Mikdash should be rebuilt speedily in our days.”
(Likutey Halakhos, Netilas Yadayim 6:29)

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Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender told how in Uman, the Breslover Chassidim used to count the sefiras ha-omer together with hislahavus, hispa’alus, be-arikhus u-ve-kolos. This is still the derekh in Breslover communities today.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)

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Even when Reb Avraham did not daven before the amud, the tzibbur always was mekhabed him to lead the counting of sefiras ha-omer. His way of counting the sefirah was uniquely moving and powerful, and Jews of all types came to hear him and be inspired by him. Reb Dovid Rosenfeld, father of Reb Itzik Rosenfeld and a brother-in-law of Reb Gedaliah Kenig, said that even when Reb Avraham was ninety years old, he recited the words “u-le-tahareinu u-le-kad’sheinu…” like a young man who is consumed with the desire to attain kedushah ve-taharah.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

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Rabbi Chaim Yehudah Schlessinger of Katamon, who was a grandson of the Lev Ivri and a son-in-law of Rabbi Velvel Mintzberg, told Reb Avraham Shimon Burshteyn that whenever he heard Reb Avraham davenning Ma’ariv during these weeks, he would stop and wait to hear him count the sefirah. Rabbi Schlessinger explained that Reb Avraham’s counting of the sefirah was without compare, and he found listening to him to be irresistible.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

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Rabbi Moshe Burshteyn instituted the custom in the Ohr Avraham shul that the baal tefillah ends the Kaddish before counting the sefirah with a certain niggun to remind the mispallelim that they are about to recite the “Le-shem yichud” and count.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn, in the name of Rabbi Moshe Burshteyn. However, Reb Moshe was no longer sure if this minhag was his own, or came from Reb Avraham Sternhartz.)

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Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to publicly announce “Ha-yom yom…” and the day and week of the sefirah in the synagogue after Shacharis, after the Kaddish following Aleinu. Reb Moshe Burshteyn instituted this minhag in the Ohr Avraham shul, as well.
(Heard Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

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Reb Gedaliah heard from Reb Avraham that Breslover Chassidim follow the view of the Arizal that the restrictions of sefiras ha-omer remain in force until Erev Shavuos. He did not relax these restrictions even during the sheloshes yemey hagbalah.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man and Rabbi Ephraim Kenig. See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha'ar Sefiras ha-'Omer, 7; also cf. Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh VI, 496. Reb Noson mentions this subject in Likutey Halakhos, Minchah 7:35; Lo Yilbash Gever 3.)

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Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak mentioned that his father, Rabbi Noson Barsky, son of Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Uman, conducted himself the same way and did not cut his hair until Erev Shavuos.

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These restrictions include not listening to music, except on Lag ba-Omer. Although the Arizal states that one may not cut one's hair until Erev Shavuos, he does not discuss music. However, the Poskim designate this as a time of aveilus. Therefore, it seems that one should also refrain from listening to music until Erev Shavuos.
(However, these restrictions may not apply to professional musicians and others who work in various phases of the music business. A musician who needs to practice and work during the weeks of sefirah, or a music producer, recording engineer, composer, music teacher, music therapist, etc., should consult a qualified Rov.)

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Reb Gedaliah did not approve of making weddings during the entire sefirah period.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man)

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Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz wrote to Rabbi Avraham Jakobovitch of Toronto: “At this time, during the holy days of sefirah, we must greatly yearn for Hashem and prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew. We should recite Tehillim every day, which is extremely beneficial for Teshuvah, and thus receive the holy and awesome Yom Tov of Shavuos—the unique day that transcends all days, when we attain the holiness of Kesser [“Crown,” the highest sefirah], for which we have exerted ourselves throughout the days of sefirah…”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Michtevei Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 3, p. 14)

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Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender heard from Reb Avraham Sternhartz that in addition to the Tehillim he recited every day, Reb Noson had an extra shi’ur of Tehillim that he recited during the days of sefirah.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)

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It is a widely-observed custom to read a chapter of Pirkey Avos after Minchah on each Shabbos until Shavuos, and then the cycle begins again, continuing through the summer months. Reb Noson mentions this minhag in his letters.
(See Alim le-Terufah [Toras HaNetzach ed. 2000], Letter 261)

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Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender stated that it was the minhag among Ukrainian Chassidim, including Breslover Chasidim, to eat a piece of matzoh left over from Pesach on Shabbos during the weeks of sefirah until Shavuos.
(Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 222. Cf. Rabbi Aharon Brandwein, Introduction to Tal Oros, re. Minhagey Alik; Erkhei Yehoshua [Manestrich], Perach Shoshanim, 156; et al.)

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Reb Gedaliah was accustomed to put some matzos on the table during the week, from Pesach until Shavuos. If someone wished to eat, he could take whatever he desired. However, Reb Gedaliah wanted the matzah to be there.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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