8-5771 Mitzvah N-101,102,103
Negative Mitzvah 101,102,103– This is a negative commandment: do not eat bread from the new crop of grain before the Omer offering [was brought to the Sanctuary]. It is likewise a negative commandment to eat no kali (grains from one of the five species mentioned in the Bible that were roasted in fire) from new grain, before the Omer offering. And it is also a negative commandment not to eat karmel (grains that were crushed by hand and not roasted in fire) from new grain before the Omer offering.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “And you shall eat neither bread nor kali (parched grain) nor karmel (fresh grain) until this very day” (Leviticus 23:14). All this applies to grain of the five species alone which are wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye; that is forbidden. If someone eats bread, parched grain, and karmel – an olive’s amount of each – he violates three prohibitions. When the Sanctuary was in existence, it was forbidden on the sixteenth of Nisan until after the offering of the Omer. At the time when the Sanctuary is not in existence, it is forbidden the entire day of the sixteenth of Nisan, by the law of the Torah. And in the Diaspora, where two festival days are always observed, it is forbidden by the law of the Sages on the entire day of the seventeenth as well. As long as planted grain took root before the Omer, even if it ripened after the Omer, the Omer makes it permissible.
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.
There are some early authorities who hold that the law on new grain in lands outside of Israel is only by the enactment of the Sages, as a protective measure; and they decreed it nowhere but in areas bordering on the Land of Israel. Therefore most of the world of Jewry is not careful about it. Even though it is not in our power to oppose the ones who are lenient, nevertheless,every scrupulously observant person should be strict for himself in everything possible for him; because according to many great early authorities it is a prohibition by the Torah in all respects.
The Law of the Omer is that new grain cannot be used until the first sheaves are “waived” at the Sanctuary on the Second day of Passover, the sixteenth of Nisan. There was some controversy between the school of Hillel and the School of Shammai about if the date was the second day of Passover or the Shabbat of Passover. That was finally resolved by following the ruling of the school of Hillel that established the date as Nisan sixteenth. The effect of this law was to see an increase in the price of grain and flour (made from last year’s grain) in the days preceding Pesach and a sharp drop in prices as the new grain hits the market after the ceremony in the Sanctuary. Basically you can’t use new grain in any form until after the Omer is waived. The Omer is waived every day from the second day of Pesach, seven weeks until the day before Shavuot. We still count the days and weeks of the Omer each evening. A sheaf was “waved” every day during the 49 days of “Sefira” (counting).
The difference between the teachings of the “early authorities” is: some who say that we should keep the laws of the Omer because they are Torah laws, and the others who maintain that, like the other harvest laws in Judaism ( like the Sabbatical laws and the laws about leaving the corners of the fields), it applies only to the land of Israel. Outside of Israel, the Torah law is not in effect and anyone who would keep these laws anyway would be stringent in keeping a Rabbinic law, which may be important, but it is not as important as a Torah Law (which we say comes from God). Clearly the Hafetz Hayim would have us keep these laws but he has to admit that there are many good authorities who do not require it. He promotes a strict interpretation of this law, but admits that one who does not keep the law and follows the lenient authorities, have not violated these prohibitions. “Protective measures” refer to enactments of the Sages that prevent Jews from accidentally violating a Torah Law. In our case, some of the Rabbis felt that if the Jews of the diaspora did not have the habit of keeping the laws of the Omer, they might, when they travel to Israel, make a mistake and eat new grain before the Omer is offered.
I see the observance of this law in the Diaspora today as an unnecessary stringency. We no longer separate the new grain from the old grain and we no longer “wave” the sheaf of grain as an Omer offering.