Counting in abbreviations such as Alef Beis,

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Counting in numbers versus letters?[1]

One is to count the Sefira in number digits [אחד, שתים] as opposed to letters [i.e. א, ב, ג]. If one counted in letters and not in numbers, such as he said “Today is Alef or Beis or Gimel of the Omer[2]”, then it is disputed[3] as to whether he fulfilled his obligation. Practically, one is to repeat the count without a blessing.[4] [If one did not do so, he may nevertheless continue counting with a blessing the following nights.[5]]


What is the law if one counted in Roshei Teivos/Abbreviations?[6]

In the above Halacha, Admur concludes that one who counted in letters is subject to a dispute in Poskim and is thus to recount without a blessing. The question raised is asked as to what is the definition of letters, is it limited to letter abbreviations [example 1] or does the dispute extend even to word abbreviations [example 2].

  • Example 1: One said on the 33rd night “Today is Lamed Gimel Baomer”
  • Example 2: One said on the 33rd night “Today is Lag Baomer”

Letter abbreviation-Example 1:[7] One who counted that night in a letter abbreviation, such as instead of saying thirty-three he said the letters Lamed Gimel, then it is subject to the same dispute mentioned above regarding one who counted in letters, and he is to recount that night without a blessing, but may continue to count the future nights with a blessing, even if he did not recount.

Word abbreviation-Example 2: One who counted in a word abbreviation of the number night, such as instead of saying thirty-three, and instead of saying the letters Lamed Gimel, he said the word Lag, is not subject to the above mentioned dispute, and he does not fulfill his obligation and is to recount with a blessing.[8] Some Poskim[9] however rule that he fulfills his obligation even in such a case according to the lenient opinion above, [so long as the word abbreviation is commonly used for that number[10]].[11] Practically, according to Admur it is implied that he must repeat the count with a blessing in all cases of word abbreviations.[12] [Accordingly, if one counted using a word abbreviation and did not recount properly, he may no longer continue counting with a blessing.]


[1] Admur 489/7; Olas Shabbos 489/1; Chok Yaakov 489/8; Elya Raba 489/5; Chok Yosef 489/9; Sheilas Yaavetz 139 “I am truly in doubt regarding this case, and therefore one is to repeat the count without a blessing.”; Siddur Yaavetz 12; Birkeiy Yosef 489/9; Siddur Beis Oveid 11; Beir Heiytiv 489/6; Shaareiy Teshuvah 489/6; Kaf Hachaim 489/24

[2] So is the example in Admur ibid; Examples in other Poskim: Lamed Gimel [Kneses Hagedola/Maharash Halevi] Yud Daled [Chok Yaakov ibid] Daled [Maharshal]; Daled or Ches [Peri Chadash] Beis or Gimel [Kaf Hachaim 489/24] See Olas Shabbos ibid;

[3] Some Poskim [Kneses Hagedola 489; Get Pashut E.H. 126/73] rule one fulfills his obligation. Other Poskim [Peri Chadash 489/1; Maharash Levi 5; Opinion in Kneses Hagedola ibid; Sakina Charifta 20] rule one does not fulfill his obligation. [Admur ibid] Other Poskim rule that if he counted with a blessing then he is Yotzei even if he counted in numbers, while if he counted without a blessing, counting in numbers is invalid. [Rashal, brought in Get Pashut ibid-negated by Get pashut ibid and omitted by Admur ibid]

[4] Vetzaruch Iyun why we don’t say this is a case of Sfek Sfeika and allow him to count with a blessing, as one who counts only the days without the weeks it is disputed if he fulfills his obligation. However, in truth one can explain that we already ruled leniently in that dispute and it is hence no longer considered a Sfek Sfeika, although this would not explain the law in a case when it was the end of the week and one said Yud Daled and did not say the weeks, in which case it is a true dispute, and certainly can create a Sfeik Sfeika. Perhaps one can answer that in truth in such a case Admur ibid would agree that a blessing may be said, or alternatively he would still hold one is to say it without a blessing being that the two doubts are all on the same Tzad and is hence viewed like one doubt. This will be elaborated on in further footnotes.

[5] See Admur 489/25; Olas Shabbos 489/1; M”B 489/38; Kaf Hachaim 489/24; See Halacha 22 for the full discussion on this matter.

[6] See PT 489/11; The following Poskim differentiate between letter abbreviations and word abbreviations: Sheilas Yaavetz 139; Siddur Yaavetz 11-12; Birkeiy Yosef 489/9-10; Shalmei Tzibur; Beis Oveid; Shaareiy Teshuvah 489/6; Kaf Hachaim 489 24 and 26

[7] This case of counting Lag Baomer in abbreviations is actually the original case of argument recorded in the Kneses Hagedola and Maharash Halevi. Admur ibid however changed the case example from Lag Baomer to the first few days. See next. Sheilas Yaavetz 139 “I am truly in doubt regarding this case of letter abbreviations, and therefore one is to repeat the count without a blessing.”

[8] Implication of Admur ibid as explained below; Sheilas Yaavetz 139; Siddur Yaavetz Halacha 11; Birkeiy Yosef 489/9 “I lean towards this opinion, however it’s good to recount without a blessing”, brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah ibid

The reason: As abbreviated words are not numbers, despite one’s intent, as normal people do not use these terms to describe a number. [Sheilas Yaavetz ibid] For example, the word Lag is not used as a number at all, but is rather the name of a holiday. Would one be Yotzei if he said on the 5th of Iyar that today is Chag Haatzmaut, or if he said on the last day of Pesach that today is Acharon Shel Pesach? He has not said a number at all, but rather a title for the day. Would one be Yotzei if on day 49 he said “Meit Baomer” [Meit means a dead person]. These are all words and not numbers and hence cannot be interpreted as an abbreviated number even if one intends to count using its Gematria. [Sheilas Yaavetz ibid] 

[9] Get Pashut ibid; Kneses Hagedola ibid as understood by Sheilas Yaavetz ibid, and Shaareiy Teshuvah ibid, and Kaf Hachaim ibid; and Piskiey Teshuvos 489/11; [however not listed by Birkeiy Yosef ibid to hold this way]

[10] Implication of Get Pashut ibid, however it is possible to also learn that he holds one fulfills his obligation in all cases of word abbreviations, Vetzaruch Iyun]

[11] The reason: As all terms that have become known to man to refer or symbolize a number, have the status of a number in that language. Furthermore, it is possible to learn in the above opinion that all word abbreviations are valid, as once it has become common to count using word abbreviations, it validates all word abbreviations. [See Get Pashut ibid]

[12] The implication of Admur ibid: Admur ibid in his recording of the dispute changed the case of the Kneses Hagedola and other Poskim from Lag Baomer [case in Kneses Hagedola and Maharash Halevi], or Yad Baomer [Case in Chok Yaakov ibid] to Alef or Beis or Gimel. From the fact Admur changed the case from a word abbreviation to a letter abbreviation implies that he learned that the entire dispute of the Poskim is only in a case of a letter abbreviation, while a word abbreviation is invalid according to all. If Admur in truth held the dispute applied even to word abbreviations, then why did he not make that clear, and leave it for speculation, and why did he specifically go out of his way and change the case of the Poskim from a possible word abbreviation to a definite letter abbreviation. Furthermore, there is a second wondrous change of wording in Admur versus the previous Poskim, and that is the term “Osiyos/letters” versus Roshei Teivos. All the other Poskim describe the case as one who counted in Roshei Teivos [See Kneses Hagedola ibid; Maharash Halevi ibid; Get Pashut ibid; Peri Chadash ibid; Sheilas Yaavetz ibid; Beir Heiytiv ibid; Shaareiy Teshuvah ibid; Biur Halacha ibid] while Admur changes this wording and writes “Osiyos/letters” instead of Rosheiy Teivos. Now, the Yaavetz ibid and Birkeiy Yosef ibid, both explicitly differentiate between a case of counting in Roshei Teivos and a case of counting in Osiyos, and it is hence clearly implied from Admur’s changed wording that holds like the Yaavetz and Chida that one who counts in Roshei Teivos is not Yotzei at all, and it is not subject to the debate. This understanding is not contradicted in the above Poskim who debated the question of abbreviations, as they did not make it clear if the case in discussion was a letter abbreviation or word abbreviation, and it is possible to learn in them either way. However, it is clear from Sheilas Yaavetz ibid and other Poskim ibid that they understood the Kneses Hagedola to refer to even word abbreviations.  

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