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Thought for the Day: Counting S'fira, T'mi'mous, and Being Motzi When You Can't Be Yotzi

If you did not count s'firas ha'omer for one complete day, that you can no longer count with a bracha.  You should, of course, continue counting.  This is one of those situations where it is very important to have clarity on what you are doing and all of its parts.

On this there is no machlokes: When we have the Beis HaMikdash (may it be rebuilt soon and in our days), there is a mitzvah d'oraisa for each Jewish man to count s'firas ha'omer himself.  There is also a mitzvah d'rabanan for counter to make a bracha before performing said mitzvah; just as there is for many mitzvos.  You can't have someone motzi you in the counting (the Torah says each individual must count for himself), but you can be yotzi with someone else's bracha (though the minhag is for everyone to say the bracha himself).  Whether the mitzvah of counting now a days is d'oraisa or d'rabanan, whether women are obligated (the Ramban holds this is not a mitzvas asei sh'z'man gram/time-bound positive mitzvah) are all interesting discussions; for another time, perhaps.

There is one very deep machlokes left: the mitzvah requires "t'mi'mus"/wholeness.  That could mean either: [1] all 49 days need to be counted in order to have fulfilled the mitzvah, or it could mean that: [2] on each day the counting needs to be done as close to the beginning of the day as possible.  We are nervous for both sides.  In any doubtful situation, count without a bracha because of the overarching principle of "safeik d'rabanan l'kula".  If you don't count at night, count during the day (since t'mi'mus might mean [1]) without a bracha (since t'mi'mus might mean [2]).  If you don't count one whole day, then count the rest of the days  (since t'mi'mus might mean [2]) without a bracha (since t'mi'mus might mean [1]).

Now then... suppose you are the ma'ariv shaliach tzibur and have missed a day of counting; so you certainly cannot make a bracha for yourself.  However, it can be embarrassing to say, "Hey everyone, I forgot to count one day... so someone else is going to have to actually make the bracha."  Don't worry, says R' Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikra'ei Kodesh, Pesach 2) and R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 11:7), just ask (privately) a member of the congregation (who is still counting with a bracha) to not make the bracha himself, but let you be motzi him (he should answer amein, but that's not an absolute requirement).  So you, as shaliach tzibur, can make the bracha and count as usual and only one's the wiser.  Apparently that actually happened to the Beis haLeivi one year and that's what he did.

[If anyone is interested in the lumdus, I am happy to go through it; just don't have time in this post.]

Paskening sha'eilos from s'farim is fraught with danger; don't do it.  I am rarely shaliach tzibur (I daven too slowly to be anyone's shaliach) and I don't usually forget (I have both an app and a wife to remind me), but it could happen.  So I called R' Fuerst just now and he said, "Yes, you can do that l'chatchila."  Whew.


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