Having established that we conduct ourselves with concern for the Behag’s view by refraining from making a bracha on the Omer count if one missed so much as a day (see Daf Parsha Kedoshim), we now turn our attention to the nebulous question of a minor who achieves Bar Mitzva status during the Omer. Can he continue to count with a bracha as An adult Jew if he started counting as a minor?
Astonishingly, proof is adduced from Perek Ben Sorer Umoreh, the current subject of study at the Kollel during the morning. The gemara (Sanhedrin 68b) states that a Ben Sorer Umoreh is executed “Al Sheim Sofo” – in anticipation of how he will transgress when he matures – for his present extreme anti-social behaviour as a juvenile will inevitably lead him to commit future acts of homicidal violence as a grown up. [A similar “Al sheim sofo” justification exists for neutralizing a homicidal pursuer by lethal means. (ibid. 72a)] In fact, posits the Talmud, if not for a specific scriptural exegesis that limits the law of Ben Sorer Umoreh to a thirteen year-old, we would execute even a minor who behaves as a Ben Sorer Umoreh, also “Al Sheim Sofo”. From the fact that this derasha is necessary, infers the Shu”t Eretz Tzvi, we see that the principle of “Al Sheim Sofo” applies to minors as well. Therefore, a minor who will mature during the Omer is already obligated to count while he is still a minor, “Al Sheim Sofo”, so that he will be able to continue the mitzvah as an adult. And since he was obligated to count as a minor “Al Sheim Sofo”, his counting has legal significance, and he can continue to count with a bracha after Bar Mitzva, even according to the Behag!
The encyclopedist R’ Zevin (in Hamoadim Bahalakha) cryptically mentions that the Eretz Tzvi’s proof can be torpedoed, without elaborating. Apparently, we may counterargue that one cannot compare the Omer case to the Ben Sorer Umoreh; in the latter case, murder is always forbidden for a grown up (-even if he comes from a dysfunctional family-), and hence we must execute the mischievous lad “Al sheim sofo” as he displays irrevocable tendencies toward committing murder when he matures. But here, failing to count the Omer when one is a gadol is not a transgression if he is exempt from the mitzvah on account of his special circumstances of having reached Bar Mitzva during the Omer. Thus, there is no “Al sheim sofo” to require the minor to count, and when he matures, perhaps all the counting he voluntarily did until now doesn’t “count” because it was just child’s play.
Nevertheless, many halakhic authorities champion the Eretz Tzvi’s practical conclusion that the boy may continue counting with a bracha, albeit for different rationales than “Al sheim sofo”: (a) The child’s under-age counting does enjoy legal significance, for he was fulfilling the mitzvah of chinuch. This unleashes a whole can of grasshoppers concerning whether the rabbinic mitzvah of chinuch can be used to satisfy an ongoing Biblical mitzvah of the Omer count, (-if indeed the contemporary Omer is a mitzvah di’orsaisa, which is itself controversial). However, the proverbial can may simply be closed by opining that even if a minor cannot discharge the obligation of a gadol [see Rashi to Berachos 48a] the kattan can be “motzi” *himself* while he is as yet a kattan, and once he has become Bar Mitzva, we say that until now he has successfully counted. (b) By the child’s own counting, he has created a vow upon himself, and the vows of a 12 year-old boy (“mufla samuch la’ish”) are scripturally binding. (c) A father has a mitzvah to give chinuch to his children even after the boy is Bar Mitzva, as is evident from Kiddushin 30a. Thus, the father has a mitzvah of chinuch to see that the boy continues to count, and whenever a father has any sort of chinuch mitzvah, it is the boy whose lips mechanically recite the blessing. So determine the Kesav Sofer, Maharam Shik, Minchas Chinukh, Arukh Hashulchan, Minchas Loozer, Kaf Hachayim, Har Tzvi, Sha’arei Halakha Uminhag, Lihoros Nassan, Kinyan Torah and Ohr Litzion.
Rav Ovadia Yosef on the Counterattack
In one of his longest responsa ever penned, the Yabi’a Omer (O.C. 3:27-28) embarks on a twenty-thousand word demolition derby, refuting all the previous poskim with an impressive array of talmudic proofs and polemics. Chief among his ammunition is Rosh Hashana 28a which suBar Mitzvaits that a man who sobers from a period of insanity to sanity on the Seder night must eat matzah even if he already ate matzah while he was insane, because at the time of insanity he was legally exempt from any mitzvah duties, and only now has he become obligated. Clearly, the observance of a mitzvah by one who is exempt has no legal significance vis-a-vis the same person once he becomes obligated in mitzvos. The ink in his quill nearly exhausted, Yabi’a Omer concludes “from this we have taken off and with this have we landed – a blessing may not be recited!”, echoing the rulings of Chidushei Harim, Avnei Neizer, Malbim and Birkei Yosef.
Nevertheless, Piskei Teshuvos (vol. 5, pp. 285-286) hands the victory to the first school of thought, legitimizing the recitation of a bracha if the boy counted until now as a minor. In response to Rav Ovadia’s reference to the mad matzah muncher, Moadim U’zmanim (4:288) contends that, quite apart from the consideration that a minor is actually obligated by virtue of chinuch, we may simply posit the following distinction between child and psychotic: an insane fellow is completely incapable of performing mitzvos on account of his disability, whereas a minor is simply exempt, but if he voluntarily chooses to perform a mitzvah, he is credited (-especially according to the Ashkenazic position that the voluntary performance of a mitzvah, such as by a lady dwelling in the sukkah, is legally significant enough to mandate a bracha). Moreover, Rav Ovadia’s assertions to the contrary create a safeik at best, and we already have a safeik of whether the Behag is even correct, and so by sfeik sfeika (double-doubts) considerations alone the blessing may be recited on subsequent days of the Omer.
Indeed, a third position exists that even if the minor did not count at all, he may still recite the blessing when he becomes Bar Mitzva. According to this fantastically lenient view espoused by the Chesed LiAvraham and Maharash Engel, remarks the Shu”t Lehoros Nassan, a Noahide who converts during the Omer would also be able to start counting with a bracha. Still, it is the first school which is normative; thus, *if and only if* a minor counted until now can he continue to recite the bracha after Bar Mitzva. A halakhic decisor may be consulted for practical application.
From the Almighty’s perspective, we are each a precious little child (which explains the dairy consumption on Shavuos); so, too, may He continue to give us bracha after bracha after bracha during this Omer season.