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Thought for the Day: Safeik Brachos l'Hakeil

The general rule is "safeik brachos l'hakeil" -- when in doubt, don't make the bracha.  This is, of course, a special case of "safeik d'rabanon l'hakeil".  There are two reasons this is only a general rule and not "the rule".  First, there are one and half brachos except birkas hamazon and probably birkas hatorah are d'rabanon .  Second, there is Shmone Esrei, which is certainly d'rabanon, but even so we are not meikel in many cases of doubt (such being unsure if you said "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid ha'geshem" for a few weeks after the switch).  For now we are going to focus on the general case.

It should first be noted that "safeik" does not mean I am not sure what to do, it means when all is said and learned there remains an open discussion of what is the correct answer.  That is, either there are poskim on both sides of the issue, or the gemara itself leaves open how to to act.  If the doubt is due to my being an ignoramus, then I need to fix that first.  The Mishna Brura notes, for example, that if one doesn't know the appropriate bracha for a food, then don't eat it until you do know.  (That is, be at least as careful with the "HaShem, your Creator and Loving Father in Heaven Who Knows and Wants What's Best for You" diet plan as you are with your "Southbeach" diet.)

S'firas haOmer is a great place to start.  First, there is a safeik about whether "t'mimos" (complete) means you have to allow a complete day to finish before counting the next one, or if it means you need to could all 49 days in order to fulfill the miztvah.  That leads to two kinds of "safeik brachos l'hakeil".  First, because we might need a complete day, you should not count till night fall (tzeis hakochavim).  On the other hand, if you count before the end of the day, ie, during bein hashmashos (between sundown and dark), then you might have counted.  That's why if someone asks you during that time what the day is, you should answer with the count of the previous day.  However, if you do give them that days count, you can no longer count with a bracha.  Safeik brachos l'hakeil.

What if you forget (or whatever) to count one whole day?  Since we might need all 49 days, you can no longer count with a bracha.  You should, of course, continue counting -- the bracha and the mitzvah are two different things.  It is, in fact, a bit of a wonder that people are so makpid on "safeik brachos l'hakeil", but quite blissfully ignore "safeik d'oraiso l'chumra"!  That is, s'firas ha'omer now a days may be d'oraiso, so if there is any chance at all that you can fulfill it, you should.  We have precious few positive torah commandments that can be performed these days, don't take a chance!

What about if you aren't sure if you missed a day of counting or if you haven't yet counted but it is still bein hashmashos?  Now you have a doubt within a doubt.  Stay tuned....

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