Jewish Holidays

Aharon's Jewish Books and Judaica
600 South Holly Street Suite 103
Denver, Colorado 80246
303-322-7345 800-830-8660

Home | About Us | Search Jewish Holidays

Shop in Israel - Blue Bar
Rosh Hashanah
Yom Kippur
Sukkot
Shemini Atzeret
Simchat Torah
Hanukkah
Purim
Pesach / Passover
Lag B'Omer
Shavu'ot
Tu Bishvat
Shabbat
 
Kosher Gift Basket

Sponsored Results: Jewish Holidays --> Jewish Calendar --> Lag B'omer

Best Deals found on the internet are:
  • Mile Chai We support Israel. We are your online resource for Jewish gifts and Judaica, and music and more. Passover Seder Plates, Matzah Covers, and much more
    www.milechai.com

Kosher Baskets - Ship anywhere in the US and Israel

The worlds largest selection of Kosher and Jewish themed Gifts. Our fabulous gourmet gifts, baskets, and flowers are available throughout the USA, & Israel year-round. PLUS Innovative and timely holiday selections. Shipped FAST, FRESH, and ON-TIME.

Lag BaOmer (Hebrew: ל״ג בעומר‎), also known as Lag LaOmer amongst Sephardi Jews, is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, which occurs on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. According to the Talmud and Midrash, this day marks the hillula (anniversary of death) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a Mishnaic sage and leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century. Modern Jewish tradition links the holiday to the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire (132-135 CE). In Israel, Lag BaOmer is celebrated as a symbol for the fighting Jewish spirit.[1]

Lag BaOmer is Hebrew for "33rd [day] in the Omer". The Hebrew letter ל (lamed) or "L" represents "30" and ג (gimmel) or "G" represents "3". A vowel sound is conventionally added for pronunciation purposes.

Some Jews call this holiday Lag LaOmer, which means "33rd [day] of the Omer", as opposed to Lag BaOmer, "33rd [day] in the Omer." Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson writes in his Likkutei Sichos that the reason why the day should be called Lag BaOmer and not Lag LaOmer is because the Hebrew words Lag BaOmer (ל״ג בעמר), spelled without the "vav", have the same gematria as Moshe (משה), and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was mystically a spark of the soul of Moses.[2][3]


Origins

The biblical mandate to count the Omer appears in Leviticus 23:15–6, which states that it is a mitzvah to count seven complete weeks from the day after Passover night ending with the festival of Shavuot on the fiftieth day. The 49 days of the Omer correspond both to the time between physical emancipation from Egypt and the spiritual liberation of the giving of the Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai on Shavuot, as well as the time between the barley harvest and the wheat harvest in ancient Israel. There are a number of explanations for why the 33rd day is treated as a special holiday.

The Talmud[4] states that during the time of Rabbi Akiva, 24,000 of his students died from a divinely-sent plague during the counting of the Omer. The Talmud then goes on to say that this was because they did not show proper respect to one another, befitting their level; they begrudged each other the spiritual levels attained by their comrades. Jews celebrate Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the count, as the traditional day that this plague ended. This is the view recorded in the legal code of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 120:1–10.

After the death of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students, he taught just five students, among them Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. The latter went on to become the greatest teacher of Torah in his generation. The day of Lag BaOmer is also celebrated as the hillula or yahrtzeit of bar Yochai,[5] who is purported to have authored the Zohar, a landmark text of Jewish mysticism. According to tradition, on the day of bar Yochai's death, he revealed the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah. This day is seen as a celebration of the giving of the hidden, mystical Torah through Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, as a parallel to Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the revealed Torah through Moses.

During the Middle Ages, Lag BaOmer became a special holiday for rabbinical students and was called the "scholar's festival." It was customary to rejoice on this day through various kinds of merrymaking.

 

 

There are those who dispute that Lag BaOmer is Bar Yochai’s yahrzeit on the basis that it appears that in the original texts of Shaar HaKavanot by Hayyim Vital, Lag BaOmer is referred to as Yom Simchato (Day of his Happiness).[citation needed] The day of death of a tzadik isn't generally considered a day of celebration. However, on the day of his death, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai instructed his students to celebrate this day as a holiday to commemorate the vast amount of mystical teachings which he revealed at that time.[6]
Kabbalistic significance

Lag BaOmer has another significance based on the Kabbalistic custom of assigning a Sefirah to each day and week of the Omer count. The first week corresponds to Chesed, the second week to Gevurah, etc., and similarly, the first day of each week corresponds to Chesed, the second day to Gevurah, etc. Thus, the 33rd day, which is the fifth day of the fifth week, corresponds to Hod she-be-Hod (Splendor within [the week of] Splendor). As such, Lag BaOmer represents the level of spiritual manifestation or Hod that would precede the more physical manifestation of the 49th day (Malkhut she-be-Malkhut, Kingship within [the week of] Kingship), which immediately precedes the holiday of Shavuot.[citation needed]
Customs and practices
The Grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron on Lag BaOmer.

While the Counting of the Omer is a semi-mourning period, all restrictions of mourning are lifted on this 33rd day of the Omer. As a result, weddings, parties, listening to music, and haircuts are commonly scheduled to coincide with this day among Ashkenazi Jews. Families go on picnics and outings. Children go out to the fields with their teachers with bows and rubber-tipped arrows. Tachanun, the prayer for special Divine mercy on one's behalf is not said, because when God is showing one a "smiling face," so to speak, as He does especially on the holidays, there is no need to ask for special mercy.

The Sephardi minhag is to continue mourning practices through the 33rd day of the Omer and celebrate on the 34th day of the Omer, or LaD BaOmer (ל"ד בעומר).[7][8]
Bonfires

The most well-known custom of Lag BaOmer is the lighting of bonfires throughout Israel and in cities in the Diaspora. In Meron, the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, hundreds of thousands of Jews gather throughout the night and day to celebrate with bonfires, torches, song and feasting. This was a specific request by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai of his students. Some say that as bar Yochai gave spiritual light to the world with the revelation of the Zohar, bonfires are lit to symbolize the impact of his teachings. As his passing left such a "light" behind, many candles and/or bonfires are lit.[9]

The Bnei Yissaschar cites another reason for the lighting of bonfires. On the day of his death, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said, "Now it is my desire to reveal secrets... The day will not go to its place like any other, for this entire day stands within my domain..." Daylight was miraculously extended until Rabbi Shimon had completed his final teaching and died. This symbolized that all light is subservient to spiritual light, and particularly to the primeval light contained within the mystical teachings of the Torah. As such, the custom of lighting fires symbolizes this revelation of powerful light.[citation needed]

At the tomb of Rabbi Shimon, the honor of lighting the main bonfire traditionally goes to the Rebbes of the Boyaner dynasty. This privilege was purchased by Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov Friedman, the first Sadigura Rebbe, from the Sephardi guardians of Meron and Safed. The Sadigura Rebbe bequeathed this honor to his eldest son, Rabbi Yitzchok Friedman, the first Boyaner Rebbe, and his progeny.[10] The first hadlakah (lighting) is attended by hundreds of thousands of people annually; in 2001, the crowd was estimated at 300,000.[11]

In 1983 Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, the second Bostoner Rebbe, reinstated a century-old tradition among Bostoner Hasidim to light a bonfire near the grave of Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias on Lag BaOmer night. The tradition had been abandoned due to murderous attacks on participants in the isolated location. After the bonfire, the Rebbe delivered a dvar Torah, gave blessings, and distributed shirayim. Later that same night, the Rebbe cut the hair of three-year-old boys for their Upsherin.[12]
Israeli boys collect wood for a Lag BaOmer bonfire.

The bonfires are also said to represent signal fires that the Bar Kochva rebels lit on the mountaintops to relay messages,[13][dead link] or are in remembrance of the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans, who had forbidden the kindling of fires that signalled the start of Jewish holidays.[14]
Chai rotel

Another custom at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is the giving of chai rotel (Hebrew: ח״י רוטל‎). The Hebrew letters chet and yod are the gematria (numerical equivalent) of 18. Rotel is a liquid measure of about 3 liters. Thus, 18 rotels equals 54 liters or about 13 gallons. It is popularly believed that if one donates or offers 18 rotels of liquid refreshment (grape juice, wine, soda or even water) to those attending the celebrations at Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's tomb on Lag BaOmer, then the giver will be granted miraculous salvation.[3]

According to Taamei Minhagim, many childless couples found success with this segula (propitious practice). This practice was also endorsed by Rabbi Ovadia miBartenura.[15] Several local organizations solicit donations of chai rotel and hand out the drinks on the donor's behalf in Meron on Lag BaOmer. Nine months after Lag BaOmer, the Ohel Rashbi organization even invites couples who prayed at the tomb and had a child to come back to Meron to celebrate the births.[15]
First haircut for children

It is customary at the Meron celebrations, dating from the time of Rabbi Isaac Luria, that three-year-old boys be given their first haircuts (upsherin), while their parents distribute wine and sweets. Similar upsherin celebrations are simultaneously held in Jerusalem at the grave of Shimon Hatzaddik for Jerusalemites who cannot travel to Meron.[16]
Bows and arrows

Historically, children across Israel used to go out and play with bows and arrows, reflecting the Midrashic statement that the rainbow (a sign of punishment since the time of Noah) was not seen during Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's lifetime, as his merit protected the world.[9]

In Israel, Lag BaOmer is a holiday for children and the various youth movements. It is also marked in the IDF as a week of the Gadna program (youth brigades) which were established on Lag BaOmer in 1941 and which bear the emblem of a bow and arrow.[13] Beginning in 2003, the Israeli government named Lag BaOmer as a day to salute the IDF reserves.[17]
Weddings

Lag BaOmer is a popular day for weddings among Ashkenazi Jews (Sephardi Jews hold weddings on Lad BaOmer, the 34th day of the Omer). For those who do not conduct celebrations between Pesach and Lag BaOmer, the date often marks the first opportunity for a wedding in the spring or early summer.[18]
Parades
A Lag BaOmer parade in front of Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York, in 1987.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, encouraged Lag BaOmer parades to be held in Jewish communities around the world as a demonstration of Jewish unity and pride.[19] Chabad sponsors parades as well as rallies, bonfires and barbecues for thousands of participants around the world.[6]
See also

Counting of the Omer