The ‘Omer

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The halakhoth here, cover the period of the ‘Omer that commences after Pesah ends. For the halakhoth of the ‘Omer during Pesah, see our Hol Hammo’ed page.

Some have the custom to fast on Monday, Thursday and Monday after Pesah, (as we do after Sukkoth), as we fear that the celebration of drinking and eating  during the holiday may have caused us to sin in some way. The custom is to wait till the month of Nissan is over (Tashri, in the case of Sukkoth) to keep these fasts.

The laws of mourning that are kept because of the students of Ribbi ‘Aqiba who died, are kept from when Pesah finishes until and including the 33rd day of the ‘Omer (Lagh La’Omer). Rosh Hodesh Iyyar is included in these days of mourning for Sephardim. All restrictions cease from the 34th day and from then on, any item that was prohibited because of the ‘Omer becomes permitted from that day on. This is the custom of the Sephardim who follow Maran Yosef Karo. Ashkenazim have several varying customs and should consult their Rabbi.

The custom, for Sephardim, is not to perform weddings from Pesah till the 33rd day of the ‘Omer (Lagh La’Omer), and even though all other items that were forbidden during the ‘Omer, only become permitted on the 34th day, Hakham Yoseph Hayyim, ‘a”h, states that weddings are permitted from the 33rd day. It should be noted that Sephardim may perform marriages on any day from Lagh La’Omer on and not just on Lagh La’Omer itself.

Since Ashkenazim have many varied customs during this time, Sephardim who are invited to an Ashkenzi wedding between Pesah and Rosh Hodesh Iyyar (when Sephardim are not permitted to hold weddings or hear music), should preferably not attend. But if they feel obligated to attend they should be present for the Huppah only, and not remain for the ceremony and music and dancing.

Cutting one’s hair (including shaving) is not done from Pesah until and including the 33rd  day of the ‘Omer because of the students of Ribbi Aqiba who died during this period. Ashkenazim cut their hair on the 33rd day itself, but Sephardim must wait till the morning of the 34th. Cutting one’s nails, however, is not forbidden. When the 34th day is Shabbath, Sephardim may also cut their hair on the 33rd day itself, in honor of the Sabbath.

When Rosh Hodesh Iyyar falls on ‘Ereb Shabbath, most Ashkenzim permit shaving & hair cutting on that day. Sephardim, however, should not cut their hair or shave, even in this case, till the 34th day of the ‘Omer.

According to Rab Ari z”l, hair should not be cut at all till ‘Ereb Shabu’oth for Kabbalistic reasons. When ‘Ereb Shabu’oth falls on Shabbath, we are permitted to cut our hair the day before that, in honor of the Sabbath.

It is appropriate to add here that according to the Qabbalah, one should never cut one’s hair at night, but should always do so before midday. And it is appropriate to be careful in this matter.

One should avoid wearing new clothes, of the type that require the blessing of Sheheheyanu, till the 34th day of the ‘Omer. Unimportant items of clothing which do not require the Berakha of Sheheheyanu may be worn, even if they are new. Sheheyanu on new fruits may be recited during this time.

The customs practised on Lagh La’Omer itself vary greatly. In Eres Yisrael, the custom of going to Meron with much joy and celebration is well known. I am asked often, however, about the authentic custom of most Sephardim and would like to mention them here, as we do not wish to see them forgotten.

On the eve of Lagh La’Omer, it is our custom to have a Shulhan (Se’uddah [festive meal]) during which many special songs, especially those connected with Ribbi Shim’on Bar Yohai, are sung. No musical instruments are used. In addition, Hakham Yoseph Hayyim, ‘a”h, (author of Ben Ish Hai) wrote the “Hillula Rabba” which it is appropriate to read during on this auspicious night.

Taken from the writings of Hakham Ya’aqob Menashe

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maran yosef karo shulchan aruch the rama rema, the omer, s’fira, sefirat haomer, eretz yisrael, eres yisrael, eretz yisroel, s’udah on lag b’omer, the ben ish chai, rabbi yosef chaim of baghdad, erev shavuot, the kabbalah, the disciples talmidim of rabbi akiva, from pesach to shavuot, seven full weeks