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I've heard opinions (including The Shulchan Aruch Harav- see footnote #12) that one should always try to count the Sefira within the first half hour of the night, and the earlier the better.

BUT if for example one is planning on attending Ma'ariv minyan later:

  • Should a person count Sefirah at nightfall by himself OR wait to count later with a minyan?

(ie is counting earlier b'yichudus better than counting later with a minyan)

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    Thinking out loud: maybe we can also suggest this is a case of "תדיר ושאינו תדיר תדיר קודם" vs "זריזין מקדימין למצוות"? – alicht May 2 at 4:43
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    The view from the Alter Rebbe is dealing with the subject of whether the mitzvah falls on the individual or the tzibbur. This is found in Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Orach Chaim vol. 3, 489:1. He says it is better 'to begin with' to follow according to the individual fulfilling. The "תמימות תהיינה" is in regard to the count of the weeks being more complete (the most full weeks) which would mean as soon as you have actual night, each day of sefirah. Delaying for later would be a 'less full' counting. – Yaacov Deane May 2 at 13:44
  • @YaacovDeane ah gotcha- think I should edit it out of the question? – alicht May 2 at 13:59
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    What you have stated in the question is accurate. But when it discusses 'ma'ariv', it isn't talking about praying with the minyan. It means the time from 3 medium stars. The sooner the better from that point is what is 'more full' counting. In fact, like Mishnah Berurah points out (and likely Aruch HaShulchan), many, if not majority hold the obligation is only on the individual, not communal. That's why M.B. also discusses hearing the blessing from the Shatz, but counting yourself. See Be'er Heitev in your link. – Yaacov Deane May 2 at 14:16
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Here are some notes (actually, a slightly edited email response) I just wrote up on the topic before this question was asked here, but I'll try to organize it later. All halachic sources are found Orach Chaim 489:

I wasn't sure if that Halachic rule would overpower the Chiyuv to count immediately because of concerns for "Mitzvah Haba'ah Leyadcha...", "Zerizin Makdimin" and "Temimos" etc.

It turns out that the Biur Halacha (s.v. Achar) quotes the Chok Ya'akov who applies the rule of Tadir here, and says that one should wait for Ma'ariv before counting. The Piskei Teshuvos (Note Gimmel) takes this further and adds that you should count it Betzibbur, which would be another reason to wait for Ma'ariv later to count.

However, the Magen Avraham (Note Zayin) says that one may count by themselves even before Ma'ariv, and he does not seem to qualify it as Bedi'eved. He, nor any of the commentaries I saw, object on the basis of Tadir. The Aruch Hashulchan (Se'if Yud) cites this Lehalacha and says that it is the "Derech Ha'olam" to count after Ma'ariv, but that it is fine to count before as well. The same Bi'ur Halacha quoted earlier cites the Mor Uketzi'a who supports this as well.

If we accept that there is a Chiyuv to count Betzibbur and/or follow those Poskim who apply "Tadir...", you could make the argument that one does not have to count right away. However, if we reject that view, and follow the Magen Avraham/Aruch Hashulchan, it is hard to see why one should delay counting the Omer until after Ma'ariv.

(I would note that the question of Tadir is only applicable when both are in front of you and can be done now. If I am waiting for a minyan to daven later, and have a shomer/alarm reminding me of it, but there is a Chiyuv Sefirah now, I'm not sure anyone would say that Tadir applies. Even the Bi'ur Halacha and Chok Ya'akov only say it where the person is in shul davening Ma'ariv. Perhaps this is why the Piskei Teshuvos is so strong about the necessity to count Betzibbur...?)


The Igros Moshe you cited (OC 4:99) does indeed side with the opinion that Tadir applies here, but that still may only be preferable when one has a Minyan Kavua and isn't concerned that they will miss Ma'ariv (from a Halachic standpoint). Additionally, Rav Moshe opposes all of the poskim I noted above, which are mainstream and accepted, in addition to the Taz and the Bi'ur Halacha that he himself points out seem to oppose him.

Practically speaking, I discussed this with a Posek, who indicated that common Psak was in fact to count before Ma'ariv in such a situation. I also heard in the name of Rav Schachter that Tadir applies only when both Mitzvos can be done optimally at that point in time, and that he applied it to this situation to say that one should count first and daven later, since it is not optimal to daven Ma'ariv now.

On the other hand, Rav Moshe is a pretty reliable source himself...

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    Mishnah Berurah 25:7 וכן בתדיר ושאינו תדיר דקי"ל דתדיר קודם אם אין התדיר לפנינו א"צ להמתין – Alex May 2 at 15:03
  • Thanks for the source. It may not apply fully here if technically one can daven and is choosing to wait. – רבות מחשבות May 2 at 15:23
  • If you had the right to wait without sefirah it would be quite a big chiddush to say that you suddenly become obligated to do something now simply because you can do something else now. – Alex May 2 at 15:27
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Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 489:10

דרך העולם לספור אחר תפילת ערבית אבל אין הספירה תלויה בזה דיכול לספור גם קודם ק"ש ותפלה אם הוא לילה

The way of the world is to count after the evening prayer, but the counting is not dependent on this – one is allowed to count even before Shema and prayer, if it is night.

(See also Mishnah Berurah 489:18.)

This makes it sound like there is no inherent reason to juxtapose Sefirah to Ma'ariv, nor do they mention any other halachic values (e.g. minyan) that would necessitate waiting.

Mishnah Berurah 489:2

קודם עלינו דכל מה דאפשר לאקדומי מקדמינן כדי שיתקיים יותר מה שכתוב תמימות תהיינה

And before Aleinu, for all that one can make it earlier we make it earlier, in order to better fulfill that which is written "they should be complete".

This makes it sound like there is an inherent reason to count as early as possible.

  • Interesting- so your answer seems to suggest that not only is counting earlier b'ychidus allowed, it may even be preferable to do so rather than count later with a minyan – alicht May 2 at 6:39
  • Although one should try count sefira asap, Maariv comes first because of Todir. – chortkov2 May 2 at 9:09
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    The question isn't about Maariv per se but any Minyan; i recommend removing the AHSh since no one claimed maariv might be relevant. Even the MB didn't recommend everyone say to themselves after silent Amida, which is the first opportunity. – Double AA May 2 at 11:52
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    @Heshy sure! My point is more these sources aren't a good answer. The OP already sourced the fact that earlier is a value. The question is which value wins out. – Double AA May 2 at 11:54
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    See the first biur halacha in the siman. – רבות מחשבות May 2 at 14:45

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