Halacha for Thursday 18 Iyar 5776 May 26 2016

Taking a Haircut of the Night of the 34th Day of the Omer This Year (5776)

We have already discussed that one may not take a haircut or shave during the period of the counting of the Omer in addition to several other mourning customs observed during this time.

We have explained that according to the Ashkenazi custom, all of the mourning customs are observed only until today, the 33rd day of the Omer, for they have a tradition that the students of Rabbi Akiva ceased passing away on this day. Nevertheless, according to the Sephardic tradition, one may only act leniently regarding all mourning customs that have been observed, including taking haircuts, beginning from the morning of the 34th day of the Omer (tomorrow morning) based on the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch that one may only begin to take a haircut from this time.

We have a rule regarding the laws of mourning (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 395) that “a portion of the day is considered like the entire day” meaning that when a portion of the final day of mourning has already elapsed, one is no longer obligated to observe mourning customs. For instance, if one is, G-d-forbid, observing Shiva (the initial seven days of mourning which are the most stringent) for a deceased relative, during the morning hours of the seventh day, the mourner will sit on the ground and observe the various mourning customs (such as not wearing leather shoes) and after Shacharit prayers, people stand around the mourner, recite several verses of comfort and consolation, and the mourner then proceeds to rise and conclude the mourning period.

The same rule of “a portion of the day is considered like the entire day” applies to the mourning customs observed during the Omer as well. Thus, according to the Ashkenazi custom, although the mourning customs are observed up to and including the 33rd day of the Omer, nevertheless, once several minutes of the morning of Lag Ba’Omer have passed, the rule of “a portion of the day is like the entire day” takes effect and there is no longer any obligation to observe the mourning customs. Likewise, according to the Sephardic custom which is to observe these customs up to and including the 34th day of the Omer, one need not wait until the entire day passes, for “a portion of the day is like the entire day” and thus, one may take a haircut immediately following Shacharit prayers of the morning of the 34th day of the Omer.

The Rishonim disagree whether or not this rule of “a portion of the day is like the entire day” begins from the night, i.e. if one concludes the morning period once several minutes have passed from the night of the seventh day of mourning, or if it applies specifically to the daytime. Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Bet Yosef rules in accordance with the opinion of the majority of Rishonim that this rule only applies during the day. It is therefore customary to rise from the floor and conclude the Shiva on the morning of the seventh day of mourning and not the night before.

Regarding the mourning customs observed during the Omer, the Poskim disagree about this as well and the Peri Chadash rules that although regarding actual mourning we rule that the rule of “a portion of the day is like the entire day” applies only to the day, regarding the customary mourning customs observed during the Omer period, there is room to be lenient and to conclude their observance at night. Several other great Acharonim rule likewise. Nevertheless, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules stringently on this matter even with regards to the mourning customs observed during the Omer and writes that one should not take a haircut until the morning of the 34th day of the Omer.

Nonetheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that in cases of pressing need, one may rely on the opinion of the Poskim who write that the rule of “a portion of the day is like the entire day” applies at night as well. Thus, on years such as this year (5776) when the 34th day of the Omer falls out on a Friday (Erev Shabbat) when it is very difficult to take a haircut on this day because barber shops will be full of people waiting to take haircuts in honor of Shabbat, there is room for leniency to take a haircut on Thursday night when one has a need to do so.

Similarly, regarding the custom to abstain from holding weddings during this period, although on other years it becomes permissible to hold weddings from the morning of the 34th day of the Omer, nevertheless, this year, it is permissible to hold weddings from the night of the 34th day of the Omer (Thursday night), for if not, the weddings would have to be postponed until after Shabbat.

Summary: On years like this when the 34th day of the Omer falls out on Friday, when there is a pressing need to do so, one may act leniently and take a haircut or get married beginning from the night of the 34th day of the Omer, i.e. Thursday night. According to the Ashkenazi custom, one may act leniently and begin these things from the morning of the 33rd day of the Omer every year including this year.


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