What is the source for the custom that Yemenite Jews people count Sefira in Aramaic? and why do they do it?

  • What is the source for Americans to count in Hebrew?
    – Double AA
    May 26 '16 at 18:52

Otzar Ta'amei Haminhagim (cf.) explains that it is a remnant of a time when the spoken language was Aramaic. Since the primary purpose of s'fira is the keeping track of days it is preferable to count in a language that enables the counter to keep track - i.e. a language the counter understands.

  • Which leaves the question why we do not Apr 29 '11 at 2:54
  • 1
    @SimchasTorah - Because the spoken language for (most of) us is not Aramaic. I have a friend (who is neither a Yemenite nor is Aramaic his mother tongue) who counts Sefirah in English. Jun 10 '12 at 21:36
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    @SimchasTorah My rule has always been, if you have to read the night's count inside because you can't in your head smoothly figure out what to say in Hebrew, you should just be counting in English.
    – Double AA
    Mar 6 '13 at 6:59

They preserve the Babylonian custom, where the native tongue of most people was Aramaic. The earliest attestation of saying the sefira in Aramaic of which I am aware is in the siddur of R. Saadia Gaon (see here, bottom of the page).

  • Rav Saadia Gaon's translation is in Judeo-Arabic, not Aramaic. Mar 12 '15 at 18:33
  • did you even look at the page? yes Resags commentary and translation is in Arabic but the formula for Sefirath ha`omer used in his siddur is in Aramaic
    – user11495
    Nov 27 '15 at 9:04

See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 489, 1 in Magen Avraham sk 2 reported textually in Mishna Berura sk 3 :

ופשוט שמותר לספור בכל לשון ודוקא בלשון שמבין ואם אינו מבין לשון הקודש וספר בלשון הקודש לא יצא דהא לא ידע מאי קאמר ואין זה ספירה כן נראה לי. ‏

And obviously, it is allowed to count in all language, only language which he understands; if he doesn't understand Holy Language (Hebrew) and has counted in Holy Language, he doesn't fulfill the Mitsva, because this is not a count.

The source of this discussion may be in Mishna and Gemara Massechet Sota, (Mishna 7, 1) we can understand from the Tosfot Yom Tov that the intended effect of some verbal mitsvot contains understanding. For counting it is easy to understand.

What if someone said and understand and someone ho doe's not understand wants to fulfill by hearing him? The Berayita in Menachot 65b taught: "וספרתם לכם, שתהא ספירה לכל אחד ואחד" that each one need to make the count. So, the count of the few people who understand is not relevant for the "non-understanders". But the Bet Yosef reported from the Teshuvat Harashba that one may fulfill the mitsva through the count of the Shaliach Tsibur. Magen Avraham explains that by the rule of Shomea Keone (who heard is as if repeat what he heard). We can ask if this can help when the person who heard does not understand what is said, but who speak understant what he says. I am pretty sure that the answer is negative.

Aramic was the language the most used in Jewish's areas, the lingua franca this is also the reason for which the Targum is in Aramean.

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