Celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah During the Omer - Matan - The Sadie Rennert

Celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah During the Omer Rabbanit Chanital Ofan

Iyar 5782 | May 2022

Topic : Shayla , Sefirat Haomer ,


Our son’s Bar Mitzvah is during Sefirat Haomer. Can we celebrate a seudat mitzvah with music and dancing, or do we have to push off the event until after Lag Baomer? We heard there were people who celebrate the hanachat Tefillin thirty days in advance as per the custom, or move the Bar Mitzvah celebration to Yom Haatzmaut, among other solutions.


Mazaltov on your son’s Bar Mitzvah!

The Source of Mourning Customs during Sefirat Haomer

Your question warrants a discussion of the sources and details of mourning customs during Sefirat Haomer. The Tur cites the custom of avoiding making weddings during this time period. [1]According to the Gaonim, there is a prohibition to cut one’s hair.[2]

The Purpose of Mourning Customs during Sefirat Haomer

According to the Gemara in Yevamot (62b), 12,000 pairs of R. Akiva’s pupils died “over one period,” and the Gemara explicates that they died “between Pesach and Atzeret (Shavuot).” Rishonim link this story with the mourning customs during Sefirat Haomer. Alternatively, Rabbeinu Yeruham provides an inherent explanation for the mourning customs, and writes that marriage is prohibited during Sefirat Haomer, as is “arranging one’s moustache,” because the omer offering is similar to the sota offering.[3] The Shibolei Haleket cites yet another reason:[4] this is a period of judgment for the wicked[5] (this is alluded to in the mishna,[6] where this period is the time of judgment for the grain output).

The Shulhan Arukh cites the mourning customs, and associates them with the death of R. Akiva’s pupils.[7] The Arukh Hashulkhan[8] adds that the mourning customs during this time were reinforced among Ashkenazi Jewry due to the fact that the crusades took place at the same time, as attested to by the kinot written after these events. Ashkenazi Jews therefore tended toward greater stringency with regard to mourning customs during Sefirat Haomer.

Calculating the Days of Mourning and the Status of Lag Baomer

The Meiri,[9] cites the Gaonic tradition according to which the death of R. Akiva’s pupils ceased on Lag Baomer, and therefore there is no mourning on this day. The Beit Yosef cites this tradition in the name of R. Joshua ibn Shuaib,[10] and confirms that this is the prevalent custom. The Shulhan Arukh rules that mourning customs are upheld until Lag Baomer, but haircuts should be pushed off until the next day (the 34th day of the Omer).[11]

As noted above, according to the Gemara, R. Akiva’s pupils continued to die until Atzeret (Shavuot). However, R. Avraham ben Natan ha-Yarhi cites a tradition in his book Sefer Hamanhig according to which R. Akiva’s pupils died only until Lag Baomer.[12] A similar tradition is cited by Abudraham.[13] Sefer Hamanhig attests to having received the tradition from R. Zerahya ha-Levy, who found it in “an ancient Spanish book.”[14] According to this version, the Gemara reads not עד עצרת (until Atzeret) but rather עד פרוס עצרת (interpreted in the source as until halfway to Atzeret). ‘Halfway to Atzeret’ is understood as half of one month (that is, 15 days) before Shavuot.[15] The Beit Yosef calculates these two weeks before from the last day of Sefirat Haomer (the 49th day) to the 34th day of the Omer (according to the rule מקצת היום ככולו – a small portion of the day is counted as the whole day).[16] The Rema disagrees, and based on the tradition cited above writes that all mourning customs cease on Lag Baomer, which is a happy day (in the name of Maharil,[17] and Sefer Minhagim Tirani).[18]

The Tur only permits to take a haircut from Lag Baomer onward, but according to the Beit Yosef weddings are also permitted after Lag Baomer.[19]

According to some customs (which are less prevalent today) half the month (פרוס העצרת) does not include the month of Nisan and other festive days. The Maharil writes that according to one custom the laws of mourning should be kept from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Shavuot.[20] Rishonim cite a tradition in the name of Tosfot according to which the seven days of Pesach, seven days of Shabbat, two days of Rosh Chodesh, and the three days before Shavuot (שלושת ימי הגבלה) should be subtracted from the count, resulting in 33 days of mourning.[21] The Hayei Adam further notes that on the day of Lag Baomer no mourning customs are kept because of the hilula of R. Shimon bar Yochai.[22]

The Rema in Darkei Moshe[23] notes that one may delay beginning the mourning customs till Rosh Chodesh Iyar,[24] but one who begins counting on Rosh Chodesh cannot conclude counting on Lag Baomer. Conversely, the Beit Yosef cites this custom in the name of R. Joshua ibn Shuaib, but refers to the custom as “a common mistake.” The Bach discusses the various possibilities, and the Magen Avraham,[25] and Mishna Berura[26] cite yet another custom, according to which the mourning customs are maintained throughout Sefirat Haomer, apart from Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and Lag Baomer (as brought according to Tosfot above). This custom is reflected in the writings of the Gaonim,[27] and the Magen Avraham notes that the fact that Rema omitted the custom indicates that he did not accept it; however, the Mishna Berura concludes that people should follow the custom prevalent in their own community.

Seudat Mitzvah

Despite the mourning customs of Sefirat Haomer, a seudat mitzvah for the purpose of a brit milah, pidyon ha-bena siyum, and other relevant events is permissible during this time. According to Yam shel Shlomo, both a bar and bat mitzvah are a reason for a seudat mitzvah.[28] As proof he brings the story of R. Yosef, who was blind, and wanted to make a seudat mitzvah for the Rabbis in the event that he would discover that he was in fact obligated in mitzvoth despite his blindness.[29] Based on R. Hanina’s ruling that “keeping mitzvot by one who is obligated is greater [than one who is not obligated],” certainly entering a status of obligation in mitzvot is an occasion that calls for a seudat mitzvah.

Instrumental Music at a Seudat Mitzvah

According to our Halakhic Guide for the Laws of the Three Weeks,[30] there may be reason to prohibit playing musical instruments all year round. The mishnah (Sotah 9:11) states: “From the time when the Sanhedrin ceased, song also ceased from the feasting houses, as Isaiah said: “With song they shall not drink wine.”[31] The Shulhan Arukh[32] (560:3) rules against song accompanied by music all year round, apart from song praising God, which is permitted. The Rema adds that a wedding is another exception. In practice, most communities (apart from the Yemenite custom and minhag Yerushalayim) allow music all year round, but not during the three weeks.[33] The mourning customs of Sefirat Haomer prohibit getting a haircut and getting married, which seems similar to the three weeks. The scope of these laws is therefore comparable to the laws of the three weeks, and while the Shulhan Arukh relates to the prohibition of listening to music all year round, the relevant laws regarding formal days of mourning can be derived from the commentators on the Shulhan Arukh.

As explained above, prohibiting instrumental music as a sign of mourning over the destruction of the Temple was originally instituted all year round, and only in later generations limited to the three weeks. However, the scope of the basic law was also contested by the Tosfot on Gittin,[34] who stated that even those who prohibit musical instruments would permit music for the purpose of a mitzvah, such as at a wedding. Hagahot Maimoniyot wrote[35] that music may be played at a wedding to enhance the joy of the bride and groom. The Semag[36] rules accordingly that this type of music is categorized as music for the purpose of a mitzvah. Therefore, a seudat mitzvah supersedes mourning customs.

The Magen Avraham,[37] Eliyah Rabbah,[38] and Yaavetz in his Siddur state that a seudat mitzvah for a siyum or brit milah during the nine days may not include instrumental music.

Regarding Sefirat Haomer, the Mishna Berura[39] permits a seudat mitzvah (such as an engagement), but prohibits dancing. The Arukh ha-Shulkhan adds explicitly that music is prohibited.[40] However, the purpose of the prevalent custom to avoid getting married today seems to be to avoid music and maintain mourning customs. It seems that marriage used to be permitted during the three weeks (as per the Sephardi custom to only avoid weddings from Rosh Chodesh Av), but weddings were avoided to prevent festivity that included music.

Accordingly, R. Moshe Feinstein in Igrot Moshe cites examples of situations in which music is permitted during Sefirat Haomer; for example, a couple that got married on Lag Baomer may play music throughout their Sheva Brachot – the seven days following the wedding (even for those who continue with mourning customs after Lag Baomer). Similarly, he permits one who usually keeps mourning customs until Lag Baomer to participate in a wedding during the month of Nissan held by those who avoid mourning customs during this month, since this is clearly a seudat mitzvah.[41]

Rav Ovadia[42] concludes that the custom is generally to be lenient. He also notes that since Sephardic custom permits weddings during the three weeks, clearly anyone invited to such a wedding may participate fully in such a seudat mitzvah; similarly, one invited to a wedding during Sefirat Haomer may participate fully, with music and dancing. The Hida rules similarly that one may participate in a brit milah which occurs during the mourning period over one’s parents.[43]


According to this analysis, since the day on which a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah is predetermined, there is reason to permit a seudat mitzvah with music. Therefore, if the seudat mitzvah is held on the actual birthday (of a bar or bat mitzvah), one may celebrate with music and dancing even during Sefirat Haomer.

I believe there was a tendency toward stringency in this matter in the past since it was not common to celebrate a bar/bat mitzvah with music in previous generations (during Sefira or otherwise). However, avoiding a celebration that includes music today might be hurtful to a bar mitzvah boy, and there is a preference to celebrate on the day of initiation into mitzvot; therefore, there is no reason to push off the celebration, or have a more subdued celebration, on the actual day of the bar mitzvah.


[1] Orah Haim 493.

[2] The Beit Yosef cites this custom in the name of Halakhot Pesukot (94), Shaarei Teshuva (278), and Rabbeinu Yeruham in Toldot Adam ve-Hava, netiv 5, vol. 4 (44d).

[3] Toldot Adam ve-Hava, netiv 5, vol. 4 (44d).

[4] Seder Pesach 234.

[5] Seder Olam Rabbah (Leiner) 3, in the name of R. Yohanan b. Nuri.

[6] Mishna Rosh Hashana 1:2; Gemara Rosh Hashana 16a.

[7] Orah Haim 493:1.

[8] Sec. 2.

[9] Ibid. Yevamot s.v. ואע”פ.

[10] Derashat yom rishon shel Pesach (41d).

[11] Sec. 2.

[12] Sefer ha-Manhig, hilkhot eirusin ve-nisuin, p. 538.

[13] Tefilot ha-Pesach, s.v. כל ארבעה.

[14] Presumably a Talmudic manuscript.

[15] Mishna Shekalim (3:1) states: “Three times a year the appropriation is made in the chamber … half the month before Shavuot…” – this context clearly indicates half of one month, in other words, two weeks.

[16] R. Yeruham, Toldot Adam ve-Hava, netiv 5, vol. 4 (44d); Resp. Rashbatz (I: 178). The Beit Yosef writes that according to the Ramban’s calculation in Torat ha-Adam (Shaar aveilut – inyan aveilut) the mourning customs should be kept the day of Lag Baomer and part of the following day.

[17] Dinei ha-yamim she-bein Pesach le-Shavuot.

[18] Sefer ha-minhagim (Tirna), chag ha-Pesach; Kolbo 75.

[19] In the name of Abudraham.

[20] Ibid., and see also Beit Yosef in the name of R. Joshua ibn Shuaib.

[21] This tradition does not appear in the known printed version of Tosfot.

[22] Vol. 2-3 (hilkhot Shabbat u-modadim), kellal 131:11.

[23] Section 3.

[24] According to Peninei Halakhah (zemanim ch. 3, minhagei aveilut) this Ashkenazi custom is based on the experience of the Crusades, which took place in the months of Iyar and Sivan.

[25] No. 5.

[26] No. 15.

[27] R. Hai Gaon in Teshuvot ha-Geonim, shaarei teshuva 278 (cited in Abudraham, tefilot ha-Pesach s.v. כל ארבעה); Hilkhot ha-Ritz Giat (hilkhot hadash u-sefirat ha-omer 344); Shibolei ha-Leket (seder Pesach 234); Orhot Haim vol I, hilkhot Sefirat Haomer 5.

[28] On Bava Kama 7:37.

[29] Kidushin 31a.

[30] https://www.matan.org.il/en/qna/halakhic-guide-for-the-laws-of-the-three-weeks/.

[31] Is. 24:9

[32] 560:3.

[33] Magen Avraham 558:1 noted that meat may be eaten at a seudat mitzvah during the three weeks, but no music may be played.

[34] Gittin 7a, s.v. זמרא מנלן דאסור.

[35] Hilkhot taaniyot 5:14 no. 5.

[36] Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, asin, aseh de-rabanan 3.

[37] 558:1.

[38] Orah Haim 551:21

[39] 493:3.

[40] Sec. 2.

[41] Orah Haim II: 95; Even Haezer I: 97.

[42]  Resp. Yehaveh Daat VI: 34.

[43] Resp. Haim Shaal I:21. 

Rabbanit Chanital Ofan graduated from Matan’s  Advanced Talmudic Institute.  She has an M.A. in Talmud from Bar Ilan University and is a Certified Halakhic Advisor (Yoetzet Halakha) by Nishmat.  For the last 18 years she has taught Talmud and Midrash in a number of women’s Batei Midrash. She is in the first cohort of Hilkhata Matan’s Advanced Halakha Institute and a lecturer in Matan’s Metivta program.

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