On a weekly basis, we avail ourselves of a legal concept called “Shome’a K’eoneh.” This principle states that with mitzvot that are dependent on speech or reading, one can listen to someone else reciting a beracha, reading the megilah, etc, and be considered to have said the blessing or read the scroll oneself! In other words, the principle of “listening is like speaking” is a solid halachic concept. So tonight, when we hear Kiddush, it will be considered as if each and every one of us has recited the Kiddush personally.
That’s why it is so surprising that regarding Sefirat Ha’Omer, the poskim are divided as to whether this general rule applies; in other words: does merely hearing someone else count the Omer mean that I, too have done the mitzvah? Some opinions say yes, it does – it follows the general halachic guidelines of Shome’a Ke’oneh; others say no – Sefirat Ha’Omer is different.
Question: What is the view of the stringent camp based on? Why would the leniency of “Shomea K’eoneh” not be available here?
Rav Avigdor Nebenzhal offers the following observation: The mitzvah of counting the Omer is not the mere recitation of a day; it is a process of moving from the impurity of the servitude of Egypt to the ultimately redemptive moment of receiving the Torah on Har Sinai. Each day of the 49 day cycle is a step towards our new, pure commitment to G-d and His Torah as the guideline for our lives as Jews. One person’s challenges are different than that of another. I don’t have the same issues to “work on” in my own personal quest for Torah as you. As an example, let’s say what is holding me back from being more “invested” Jewishly is that it’s difficult for me to get up in the morning to recite Tefilat Shahrit; I am always rushing and consistently miss my morning obligations. That’s a different kind of personal challenge than that of my friend, who has no such issues! So my “counting” is going to be a fundamentally different spiritual process than that of my fellow Jew. For him to count – and for me to listen – would simply not make the grade! It would be an empty, rote act, of questionable benefit. That, says Rav Nebenzhal, is why the more stringent camp requires me to utter a personal “sefira”!
May the weeks that lie ahead succeed in bringing each and every member of our Jewish community a closer connection to G-d and His Torah, and to a greater sense of personal development and fulfillment.