Shabbat Shalom

Fountain, Children’s Garden, Longwood Gardens

Lag B’Omer

 Lag B’Omer is celebrated on the 33rd day of the Omer.  (Remember that the Omer is the 49 days that we count between the second day of Passover and Shavuot)  From the beginning of the Omer until Lag B’Omer, we observe those days as a semi-mourning period (more on that in a moment).  Lag B’Omer is a break from that period of mourning, and is celebrated with customs like lighting bonfires, playing with bows & arrows, field day activities, picnics/BBQs, and even weddings.

According to the Talmud, during the counting of the Omer, a great number of Rabbi Akiva’s students were killed by a plague.  The plague was said to occur because the students did not treat one another with respect.  We treat the beginning of the Omer season as a period of mourning in remembrance of Rabbi Akiva’s students and their behavior.  The story continues that on the 33rd day of the Omer the plague lifted.  As a result, Lag B’Omer became a day of happiness, interrupting the solemnness of the Omer.

The Talmud talks of a plague, but historians believe that the plague might be a veiled reference to Rabbi Akiva’s students participating in the failed Bar Kochba rebellion against Roman rule of Judea.  This also is a likely source for the tradition of children playing with bows & arrows on Lag B’Omer.

Another reason for the significance of Lag B’Omer is that it is the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai, who is credited with writing the Zohar, the book of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah).  In Israel, people visit his burial site nearby the city of Tz’fat (known as the home of Jewish mysticism) on Lag B’Omer.

Yet another reason for celebration on Lag B’Omer is a belief that the manna given to the Israelites during the exodus first appeared on this day in Jewish history.