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Leviticus 25:8 (Sefaria English translation):

וְסָפַרְתָּ֣ לְךָ֗ שֶׁ֚בַע שַׁבְּתֹ֣ת שָׁנִ֔ים שֶׁ֥בַע שָׁנִ֖ים שֶׁ֣בַע פְּעָמִ֑ים וְהָי֣וּ לְךָ֗ יְמֵי֙ שֶׁ֚בַע שַׁבְּתֹ֣ת הַשָּׁנִ֔ים תֵּ֥שַׁע וְאַרְבָּעִ֖ים שָׁנָֽה׃

And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and there shall be unto thee the days of seven sabbaths of years, even forty and nine years.

1) The verse seems unclear to me. What exactly was counted? Did they count each of the 7 years that comprise each Shemitah year?(i.e., did they count each of the 49 years; saying, "this is year 1; this is year 49"?) Or did they count only each grouping of Shemittah years (saying, e.g. "This is the 1st group of Shemitah years .. this is the 7th group)? Or did they count both?

2) Who counted - was it all farmers; every person who lived in Israel; someone else?

3) When was it counted - what date began the year?

4) Was a bracha said (similar to what is done for counting the Omer)? If so, what was the bracha? If not, why not?

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This Mitzva applies to Beit Din (Sifra to your verse; cf. Menachot 65b), and the year would begin on 1 Tishrei (RH 1:1). The Sifra clarifies that they would count both the total years of Yovel and the years of the current Shmita. So (as the Chinukh 330 explains it) it would be just like counting the Omer: "This year is 33 years which is 4 Shmittot and 5 years in the Yovel".

The Rambam (Yovel 10:1) doesn't mention a blessing (which doesn't mean there isn't one), Tosefot (Menachot 65b) is unsure if a blessing would be recited, and Rosh (Pesachim 10:40) and Tosefot (Ketubbot 72a) take it as obvious that there was a blessing. The Ran (Pesachim R27b) implies no formal counting took place, just Beit Din had to keep track of where we were in the cylce.

  • +1. The only subquestion you didn't answer (except according to the Ran) is "When was it counted". – msh210 May 26 '16 at 19:38
  • @msh210 Did I not say 1 Tishrei? – Double AA May 26 '16 at 19:44
  • (re your comment) You said that that's when the year starts, not that that's when the counting was done. Maybe, for example, there's a special mitzva (or convenient practice) to count on some other date, like Yom Kippur or the second day of Sukos or the sixteenth day of Teves. I dunno. – msh210 May 26 '16 at 19:48

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