In last weeks Parsha we read the Mitzvah of bringing the sacrifice of the Omer on the second day of Pesach and also the Mitzva of Sefira, of counting the days from that day till Shavuoth. Rambam (Maimonides) holds that these are two separate mitzvoth, in fact, he lists the mitzvah of the omer as mitzvah 44, and the sefira as mitzvah 161. And he concludes that women are not obligated to do Sefirat Haomer.
In “Hilchot Temidim Umussafim” perek 7, halacha 24, Rambam says that the mitzvah of Sefirat Haomer applies to every man at every place, and women are exempt from it. He also holds that Sefirat Haomer is always a Torah law, and this is according to the majority opinion in Gemarah Menachot Daf 66. “Kesev Mishneh” explains that Rambam’s reason that women are not obligated is because it is “Zeman Geramah”, it is a time-related command which women do not have to observe.
However, Ramban (Nachmanides), in “Kiddushin 34” disagrees with Rambam and states that Sefirat Haomer is a mitzvah, which is not time related, and therefore women would be obligated to count sefira.
The opinion of Ramban needs explanation, after all Sefirat Haomer is clearly time related!
The “Turei Even” in “megillah 26” introduces an interesting concept of “Zeman Geramah”. He says that the principle of time related mitzvot applies only if there is a “Gezerat Hakatuv”, meaning a direct Torah law, which states that a mitzvah has to be done at a definite day and time. However, if it depends on something else, “davar acher garam loh”, then it is not considered time related.
The time of the beginning of siefira is only known in relation to the sacrifice of the ome r, “beyom haviachem”, meaning on the day when the sacrifice was brought, implying that it depends on something else. In his words: “Taluy bedavar acher”. Accordingly, women should be obligated to count sefira. Amemar, in Menachot 66 , holds that Sefirat Haomer in our days is a “zechar lamikdash” in memory of the time of the Mikdash. It is a rabbinical law which would then apply equally to men and women (it also seems to be the reason that we conclude our sefira with a prayer that the Mikdash should be rebuilt and then sefira would then again become a Torah law).
So, what do women do today?
According to Magen Avraham, women have committed themselves to this mitzvah as they have to tekiat shofar, in his words, “kvar shavyeh aleihem chovah”. However, the Mishneh Brura quotes Magen Avraham saying that in his country, women did not count. He gives two reasons for this, but I feel that these reasons do not apply in our time to our women, and therefore they should count sefira.