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Thought for the Day: Difference Between La-Omer and Ba-Omer

There seems to be much confusion about whether to say "la-omer" or "ba-omer" when counting s'fira.  Some people even count twice, once with each nusach (they still have the problem of which to say first, of course).  The Shulchan Aruch says nothing directly, but refers to the 33rd day as "log la-omer"; the Rema on the spot says, "log ba-omer".  The Mishna Brura does not make a clear p'sak.  I have done some investigation and am prepared to add to the confusion.

The basic difference in meaning is that "la-omer" implies a particular event, while "ba-omer" implies "during the omer season".  Since the actual minchas omer is only offered once, "la-omer" certainly seems, therefore, to be the correct nusach.  So paskens the Sha'arei T'shuva; arguing on the Taz who paskens "ba-omer".  There are at least two strong questions on the Sha'arei T'shuva.  First, the nusach of the bracha is "asher kidishanu b'mitzvosav al s'firas ha-omer", not "al s'firas minchas ha-omer".  That is, it is not clear that the mitzvah of counting is specifically referring to the korban itself.  Secondly, Google Calendar refers to the 33rd day of the omer as "Lag Ba'Omer" (I used to pasken such things by Hallmark, but it's now the 21st century).  Still... it's the Sha'arei T'shuva and Shulchan Aruch, so we need some m'halach in "ba-omer".

The Ramban (via Halichos Shlomo) comes to the rescue.  The Ramban says that really the minchas omer should be from wheat.  Why barley?  Because HaShem didn't want us to have to wait so long to eat the new grain harvest, so He told us to use the earlier ripening barley.  We then offer the shtei ha'lechem on Shavuos as the offering of wheat that should have been made right after Pesach.  The Ramban goes so far as to call the time between Pesach and Shavuos a sort of chol ha'mo'ed.  The mitzvah of counting is to recall each day the extra kindness HaShem has shown us by allowing us to eat from the new harvest early.  According to that, says Halichos Shlomo, the nusach of "ba-omer" makes a lot of sense, since the two korbanos are essentially one unit extending over seven weeks.

Perhaps that is why R' Akiva's student died davka at this time of year.  In a time when HaShem is showing extra kindness to us, we should respond in kind by being extra kind and respectful to our fellow Jews.  Every night when we count, we are reminded of the kindness that HaShem shows us.  Every day when we refrain from listening to music, we are reminded of importance that HaShem gives to us treating our fellow Jews with kindness and respect.  Could there be a better preparation for for kabalas haTorah than that?

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